World Contraception Day

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    Morocco 2003

    At a friend’s house in the bled: Ait Mazigh, Azilal Province, Morocco, 2003. 

    I had no idea what a stockout was—until 2003, when I saw the grave effects of one firsthand. As a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Morocco, I worked with Operation Smile one spring when the organization visited the country to provide free corrective surgery to people born with cleft lips and palates. With my boss and several volunteers, I found a number of people living in the “bled”—the rural area outside my small village—who wanted to undergo the procedure. For nearly every person we accompanied to Marrakech to receive services, this was not only their first time in a hospital—it was their first time seeing a doctor. It didn’t take long to understand why. 

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    Women receives Implant.

    Photo by Carol Bales, Courtesy of IntraHealth International.

    Kicker: Plenty of obstacles stand in the way of health workers who provide contraception to their clients. And personal bias is one of them.

    We know three big truths about contraception and family planning.

    First, family planning is one of the smartest investments a country can make in its own future

    When a country strives to make sure that every pregnancy is wanted and mothers are able to space their children for optimal health, its population transforms. More children finish school. The economy flourishes. Abortion rates and maternal deaths plummet as gender equality draws nearer. And everyone—especially young people—benefit.

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    Hashtags have received a lot of attention recently since a recent sketch from Late Night with Jimmy Fallon with Justin Timberlake went viral that highlighted the dangers of hashtag overuse. For years, I’ve been ridiculing those throughout my social networks for hashtagging unnecessarily. With the sudden hype and negativity of hashtags surrounding this video, I wanted to highlight how a simple hashtag can bring together hundreds of thousands of people throughout the world.

    Twitter hashtag

    Credit: Rebecca Shore

    On September 26, 2013, World Contraceptive Day, Women Deliver hosted the #WCDChat Tweetchat to discuss issues around access to contraceptives around the world. The chat went through a series of contraceptive-related questions to advocate and educate about contraceptives and unmet need. Questions varied from what types of programs work in family planning, challenges around contraception, advancements in contraceptive technology, general advocacy, and access issues.

    From an advocacy and communications perspective these Tweetchats, or online discussions, are a great way to rally around a particular issue. It is a place for people all over all the world to talk about a particular issue using a unique hashtag. One way to measure success of a Tweetchat is by how many people participate. The #WCDChat Tweetchat was extremely popular with nearly 700,000 people reached. It definitely got the word out about World Contraception Day.

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    This post, by Ellen Starbird, originally appeared on USAID's IMPACT Blog. Ellen Starbird is the Director of USAID's Office of Population and Reproductive Health, and she spoke at the Global Health Knowlede Management Share Fair in April 2013, where she emphasized the need to increase collaboration among health practitioners and to provide access to experts and expertise. In this spirit, on this World Contraception Day, K4Health: shared our new suite of mHealth tools; published a guest contribution about faith-based organizations improving access to contraceptives; reminded our community about the Family Planning Certificate on the Global Health eLearning Centershared our new suite LA/PM resources; recapped a family planning summit for midwives in Indonesia; and participated in a Twitter chat. What did you do to mark World Contraception Day?

    September 26 is World Contraception Day

    For more than 25 years, my professional and personal mission has focused on helping women and couples across the world have the ability to decide whether, when and how many children to have. I strongly believe in the importance of increasing access to voluntary family planning, because the evidence is so clear. Enabling women and men to plan their families, results in multiple health, economic and social benefits for families, communities and nations. On September 26, 2013, World Contraception Day draws attention to the fact that more than 222 million women in the developing world say they want to delay or avoid pregnancy but are not using a modern method of contraception.

    Community health worker in Malawi counsels a woman on her family planning options

    A community health worker in Malawi counsels a woman on her family planning options at a gathering place in her community. USAID works in more than 45 countries around the globe to increase access to family planning information and services for all who want them.

    Photo credit: Liz Bayer

    Everyday an estimated 800 women lose their lives in pregnancy and childbirth. Voluntary family planning could reduce these deaths by 30 percent and save the lives of more than 1.6 million children under five each year by enabling women to delay first pregnancy, space later pregnancies at safe intervals, and stop bearing children when they have reached their desired family size.

    USAID works across the globe to enable individuals to access and use affordable, high-quality family planning information, commodities, and services as a means to improve their health and quality of life. For many women, currently available contraceptive methods don’t meet their needs. USAID is one of the few organizations that prioritizes the development of new contraceptives that will be affordable in low resource settings. USAID-supported products on the verge of introduction include:

    • The SILCS Diaphragm, a “one size fits most” reusable diaphragm that does not need clinical fitting
    • The NES+EE Contraceptive Vaginal Ring,  the first long-term hormonal method completely under the woman’s control that lasts for one year
    • The Woman’s Condom,  designed to be easy to insert, use and remove, making it unique compared to other female condoms
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    Health care workers provide contraceptives during an awareness raising campaign in Grand Bassa Country, Liberia

    Health care workers provide contraceptives during an awareness raising campaign in Grand Bassa Country, Liberia.

    © 2012 Emmanuel Dipo Otolorin, Courtesy of Photoshare

    Having accurate and up-to-date information on contraceptive methods is extremely important for all facets of family planning programming and practice. From advocacy to supply chain management; accurate information are key to successfully meeting the great number of unmet need throughout the world.

    On World Contraception Day, K4Health is pleased to have such a plethora of resources focused on family planning and reproductive health including many contraception specific Toolkits and resources. Recently, K4Health has just completed the Long Acting and Permanent Methods (LA/PMs) Toolkit series with the addition of the Permanent Methods Toolkit. The series also includes the Implants Toolkit and IUD Toolkit which just received an overhaul to update their resources.

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    Today is World Contraceptive Day (WCD), a global campaign to raise awareness on contraception. The theme of the Day is “Your Future. Your Choice. Your Contraception.”

    The focus is "on empowering young people to think ahead and build contraception into their future plans, in order to prevent an unplanned pregnancy or sexually transmitted infection (STI).”

    The Day’s website is, which contains education materials designed for parents and teachers to talk to teens age 15-19 about contraceptives. The website also links to a Space Invaders-like game on Facebook called Sperm Invasion.

    If, after some light hearted fun, you want to continue your education on reliable pregnancy prevention, visit USAID’s Global Health eLearning Center’s Family Planning and Reproductive Health Certificate Program.

    The Global Health eLearning Center courses are organized into Certificate Programs to help you focus your learning with a more comprehensive study of key topics of global health.

    The Family Planning and Reproductive Health Certificate Program focuses on enabling couples to determine whether, when, and how many children to have is vital to ensure safe motherhood and healthy families.” It also discusses how voluntary family planning has profound health, economic, and social benefits for families and communities.

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    Unmet Neet Infographic

    In the developing world, 222 million women who want to plan their families and their lives have unmet need for modern contraception.

    Working in global health and with a focus on Africa, I have had the opportunity to learn first-hand about the need for family planning in many countries. While Americans debate on this topic and whether couples should be helped with access to family planning education and supplies, women and children are suffering and dying needlessly. Pregnancy-related maternal mortality causes far too many women to die. Lack of spacing pregnancies leads to poor outcomes for both the mother and child. Statistics are often hard to comprehend because of their magnitude, but we must take the time to let these numbers sink in: 222 million women want to plan their families and do not have access to modern contraceptive methods, methods that can mean the difference in life and death --their own or that of their children. Each year, 54 million women have unintended pregnancies. We cannot ignore these numbers any longer, and thankfully, many are not. Last year, family planning was given a renewed boost through efforts of the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, USAID and DFID. FP2020 was born and organizations around the world are reviving their commitment to this basic provision.

    When couples are empowered to plan their families, wonderful things happen. They have the number of children they can afford and become economically independent. Their children are well spaced and grow up stronger and healthier.

    Family planning can be integrated with many other health interventions. HIV/AIDS is a logical partner for family planning work. Nutrition and immunization interventions can also be integrated into family planning outreach. Once we find ways to integrate family planning into other priority areas, we will make the progress needed, reaching 120 million women by 2020.

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    Last Friday the 2012 Global Health Mini-University was a successful exchange of best practices and new innovations. I attended one particularly interesting presentation about the development of multipurpose prevention technologies—new methods that simultaneously prevent pregnancy, HIV, and other STIs, such as HPV (human papillomavirus), HSV (herpes), syphilis, chlamydia, and others. Currently options for multipurpose prevention are limited to the male and female condom, but these methods do not meet the needs of every person, in every country, and in every situation.