Ten Elements of Family Planning Success

Around the world, family planning programs have helped women and couples have control over whether and when to have children, resulting in tremendous benefits for individuals, families, and societies.

Programs in developing countries meet the family planning needs of more than 500 million women each year, preventing an estimated 187 million unintended pregnancies and averting 2.7 million infant deaths and 215,000 pregnancy-related deaths each year.

Over the past 40 years, family planning has reduced fertility rates in developing countries, from six births per woman to about three per woman. Lower birth rates contribute to slower population growth, which enables economic development and environmental sustainability. Despite these successes, the family planning agenda remains unfinished.

  • Half of all pregnancies around the world are unplanned or unintended.
  • Some 201 million women in developing countries have an unmet need for contraception—that is, they want to space or limit births but are not currently using contraception.
  • Programs must expand to reach growing numbers of clients as the world's population continues to grow.
  • New financial and administrative changes challenge programs to spend limited resources efficiently.

To help family planning programs succeed more quickly, we have distilled the most important lessons learned about 10 crucial elements of successful family planning programs, which were identified by family planning professionals around the world.

  • Supportive policies ensure that family planning programs have a prominent place on the national agenda with adequate financial resources.
  • Evidence-based programming uses research to understand the needs of intended clientele, monitors progress toward program objectives, and evaluates the program's accomplishments.
  • Strong leadership and good management help programs improve and expand services, scale up best practices, and navigate change.
  • Effective health communication strategies use a systematic process and behavioral theory to develop and carry out communication activities that promote and sustain healthy behavior.
  • Contraceptive security ensures that people are able to obtain and use high-quality contraceptives whenever they want them.
  • High-performing staff has the appropriate knowledge, skills, motivation, and working environment to deliver quality services.
  • Client-centered care enables clients to find suitable contraceptive methods, to continue using their chosen methods, and to return to a provider when they need help or another method.
  • Easy access to services through a variety of delivery points, such as clinics, community-based channels, and retail outlets, makes contraceptive methods available to more potential users.
  • Affordable services that target subsidies to low-income users while shifting users who can afford to pay from the public to the private sector keeps services affordable for all clients.
  • Appropriate integration of services, such as family planning with HIV care or with maternal and child health care, can address a wider range of health needs conveniently for clients while being more efficient for programs.
  • Event
    October 09, 2013 (All day) to October 11, 2013 (All day)
    Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

    The theme for the conference is “Local Solutions to Local Problems: Advancing the Evidence-Base for Repositioning Family Planning in Tanzania”. The theme seeks to emphasize the importance of generating local evidence-based solutions to local problems to inform evidence-based programming and decision-making. It also examines the interface between researchers, practitioners and managers, and how these key stakeholders can best work together to improve access to safe and effective family planning services.

  • Event
    August 26, 2013 (All day) to August 31, 2013 (All day)
    Busan, Republic of Korea

    In conjunction with the International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP). Over 2000 scientific papers presented in 270 regular sessions, 4 poster sessions, and 4 plenary sessions on topics in 21 themes including reproductive health, mortality, longevity and health, population ageing, migration, union formation and marriage, as well as themes addressing the interrelationship between population, development and the environment. 

  • Event
    May 22, 2013 (All day) to May 25, 2013 (All day)
    Copenhagen, Denmark

    The conference will focus on empowering women and all aspects of sexual and reproductive health. 

  • Event
    May 14, 2013 (All day) to May 16, 2013 (All day)
    Nanyuki, Kenya

    This seminar will bring together scientists, policy makers, and programme managers to present and discuss a range of issues relating to the definition, determinants and consequences of unmet need in family planning and programme interventions designed specifically to reduce unmet need in groups at high risk.

  • Event
    April 11, 2013 (All day) to April 13, 2013 (All day)
    New Orleans, Louisiana, USA

    This meeting will touch on a number of themes such as Fertility, Family Planning, Sexual Behavior, and Reproductive Health.

  • Event
    January 15, 2013 (All day) to January 17, 2013 (All day)
    Arusha, Tanzania

    GMHC2013 is a technical conference for scientists, researchers, and policy-makers to network, share knowledge, and build on progress toward eradicating preventable maternal mortality and morbidity by improving quality of care.

  • Blog post

    Family planning experts from USAID, UNFPA, WHO, the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF), and 14 nongovernmental and private organizations met on July 9-10, 2012, ahead of the landmark London Summit on Family Planning, to review evidence around high-impact practices in family planning (HIPs).

    Mothers in Mozambique take their children for vaccination

    Mothers in Nampula, Mozambique take their children for vaccination.

    © 2003 Arturo Sanabria, Courtesy of Photosh

    Meeting at UNFPA headquarters in New York, the participants discussed evidence on eight specific practices that, when scaled up and institutionalized, will maximize investments in family planning programs:

    • Provide family planning counseling and services at the same time and location where women receive treatment for complications related to abortion. Many postabortion clients have a clear need and demand for family planning, and strong evidence demonstrates that providing family planning services at the same time and location where women receive postabortion treatment is feasible, acceptable, and effective.
    • Train, equip, and support community health workers (CHWs) to provide a wide range of contraceptive methods. CHWs can be an important means of reducing inequities in access to services, especially in areas where individuals face physical and social barriers to health services.
    • Provide a wide range of contraceptive methods through mobile outreach services—services provided by a mobile team of trained providers such as physicians and nurses, sometimes in a vehicle such as a van or bus that is equipped with clinic facilities. Mobile outreach provides services to women and men in the communities where they live and work, as do CHWs. While CHWs provide a limited range of contraceptive methods, such as oral contraceptives, condoms, and sometimes injectables, mobile outreach services have the added benefit of giving people direct access to long-acting and permanent methods (LAPMs).

  • Resource

    Accurate and authoritative overviews of important developments in family planning and related health topics, published by the INFO Project and its predecessor from 1973-2008.

  • Resource

    Brief looks at special topics, newsworthy events, and research and program developments in family planning and reproductive health, published by the INFO Project from 2004-2008.