A Few Questions & Answers for World Contraception Day

In her home, a young Indian woman learns about various contraceptive methods from an Accredited Social Health Activist or “ASHA.”

In honor of World Contraception Day, September 26, I asked our Senior Contraception Advisor, Candace Lew, for a few of her thoughts on this important topic as well as what motivated her to have a career in reproductive health.

Women’s access to family planning is essential to the empowerment of girls and women so that they can make decisions about their bodies, and futures.What motivated you to be focused on contraception for your career?

Reproductive health has always been the center of my career as an Ob/Gyn clinician, but I have come to realize that contraception in many ways is core to so many aspects of reproductive health. As a priority, contraception affects so many of the other aspects of sexual and reproductive health such as maternal health, adolescent and youth health, and HIV and AIDS.

What are the biggest challenges we still need to overcome to get women access to contraception in developing countries?

Education about the existence of contraceptive methods, empowerment of women and men to make these decisions for themselves (as well as information about the effect such decisions may have on their and their families’ lives), and finally, providing actual access to contraceptive methods, which unfortunately are so often out of stock or unavailable in areas where we work.

Is there any one or any group in particular you see as having the toughest time getting contraceptive information and services?

Those communities that are geographical isolated certainly struggle, as well as those that are culturally isolated from contraceptive information and services. Young people are also a group we see consistently struggling to access information and services because of bias and lack of youth-friendly training for providers.

While contraceptive prevalence rates have increased in some countries like Ethiopia, globally there has been some stagnation over the last few years. Why do you think that has occurred?

In the last decade or so, it was in part, lack of prioritization by funders, as well as the private and public sectors as HIV and maternal health took top priority. Although we’re seeing that shift somewhat as conversations and greater focus emerge after the Family Planning Summit in London and as we see greater integration across health initiatives (ie, integrating family planning into our HIV work and postnatal counseling).

It’s important that we continue to focus on how contraception should be 1) considered an integral determinant of many other priorities such as maternal and neonatal mortality, and 2) integrated into programs of other priorities such as HIV/AIDS.

That’s in large part, why there was success in Ethiopia, political will and buy in, as well as strong partnerships across the public and private sectors. Now we need to learn from those successes and push forward to see more gains in contraceptive use.

What are some of the interesting approaches you’ve seen in Pathfinder’s work on contraception and family planning?

I have been impressed by the innovation, breadth, and diversity of Pathfinder’s work on contraception, particularly at the community level and as an integral part of health and non-health programs.

If there was one main point you’d want people to know this World Contraception Day, what would it be?

Increasing awareness about contraception globally is key to so many issues. There are the obvious benefits for reproductive health, but women’s access to family planning is also essential to the empowerment of girls and women so that they can make decisions about their bodies, and futures. And then this has a ripple effect, improving their socioeconomic status, education levels, and health and well-being.

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