Women Deliver Day 2: Family Planning is a Health System Strengthening Intervention

It is true that national family planning services rely on functional health systems to thrive. Equally true is that family planning has unique, powerful health system effects of its own.

Given family planning’s cross cutting, positive effects on maternal health, child and neonatal health, and economic development as a whole, it does in its own right qualify as a form of health system strengthening intervention.

Here lies the power of family planning to ignite a virtuous cycle that Melinda Gates made reference to in her remarks on Day 2 at the Women Deliver conference.

It is for these reasons that the fight and resolve to assure access and the continuous availability of quality family planning in countries everywhere is job number one.

Bravo to Senegal, Benin, Philippines, and many other countries on this forward march to progress. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, has also reported strong progress in family planning. Chief is the continuous availability of contraceptives financed by commitments made by the national government, a boon to the country.

Take the examples of Bauchi and Sokoto States in Northern Nigeria. On the strength of steady supplies and improvements in distribution, training of providers, involving male leaders and focusing on hard to reach communities, the contraceptive prevalence in Sokoto rose from around 2%   in 2008 per the 2008 Nigeria Demographic Health Survey to 6.8 % as reported in per a recent household survey conducted with USAID/JSI support in December 2012. Similarly, the contraceptive prevalence in Sokoto rose from 2% in 2008 to 6.9% in 2012 (USAID/JSI).

Although much remains to be done, the conditions for sustained progress have been created. Dr. Muhammad Ali Pate, Minister of State for Health reiterated as much in his own remarks.

In closing, all of the world must join Philippines in solidarity to ensure that the fight to assure the constitutionality of a law on family planning to promote women’s health is won. It is about us. Women everywhere deserve dignity.

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