WHO Director General Dr Margaret Chan, who is chairing a panel at the Summit on increasing access and expanding choice clarified the WHO stance on family planning.
"Access to modern contraception is a fundamental right of every woman ... Hand-in-hand with this right is a need to honor the dignity of women by giving them a range of family planning options and the freedom to make their own personal choice."
The WHO continued their announcement by pledging to integrate family planning into basic health care services in developing countries as they are in the first world - they pledged to investigate why, in some cases, women are unable to obtain contraception, even when they actively want it.
They summarized the aims of the summit by stating their goal to focus policy, financing, commodity, and service delivery commitments, whilst supporting the rights of women and girls in the world's poorest countries. The goal for 2020 is to have information, services and supplies available, whilst removing coercion and discrimination.
The recommended policy actions include:
- Expanding the range of family planning choices offered, so every woman can select a method that meets her needs. WHO is stepping up the pre-qualification of affordable and safe products and enhancing research into the safety and effectiveness of existing contraceptives and development of new products. Many large-scale procurers regard WHO pre-qualification as an important guarantee that they are purchasing good quality products.
- Increasing the number of skilled health workers trained and allowed to provide family planning services. Some 57 countries are currently experiencing a "health workforce crisis". WHO advocates for the redistribution of tasks among existing health workers who have the right training, to help countries expand access to services.
- Making family planning an essential component of health care services provided during the antenatal period, immediately after delivery or after abortion, and during the year following childbirth or abortion.
- Making long-acting and permanent methods of family planning, such as intrauterine devices, contraceptive implants, vasectomy, and female sterilization, available and acceptable.
- Eliminating social and non-medical restrictions on the provision of contraceptives to adolescents to help reduce early pregnancy and the associated health risks.
Providing these girls and women with effective contraception would instantly cut the maternal birth rate by one third, always assuming that the women wished to avoid all future pregnancies and used the products properly.
The new WHO policy briefs focuses on an approach to improve family planning and reinforce sexual and reproductive health services in developing countries. The advice has been put together by a multidisciplinary panel of experts gathered together by the WHO specifically to address contraception in developing countries.
Written by Rupert Shepherd