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Family Planning: A Key to Unlocking the Sustainable Development Goals

Family Planning: A Key to Unlocking the Sustainable Development Goals


Family planning is an important key to unlocking the Sustainable Development Goals. In September 2015, the United nations launched its Sustainable Development Goals. Targets 3.7 and 5.6 address sexual and reproductive health and rights including family planning. Most people know that family planning is essential to women’s health but the benefits of family planning go far beyond health. Family Planning is vital to the achievement of all 17 goals. Let’s connect the dots. Some goals focus on ending poverty and promoting economic growth. How does access to contraception help? Enabling women and girls to plan their pregnancies lowers healthcare costs keeps more girls in school and helps more women enter and stay in the workforce. When women are more able to contribute to or manage household income, they spend more than men do on food, health, clothing, and education for their children. This helps economies and families. Family planning can also create a “demographic dividend” Longer lives and smaller families means more working aged people supporting fewer young people. This change reduces costs and increases a country’s wealth and productivity. Several goals focus on equity – in health and education, between genders, within countries, and among countries. More girls than ever have a primary education, but a gender gap remains at the secondary level. Access to comprehensive sex education and contraceptive services helps girls delay sexual debut, avoid pregnancy, and stay in school longer. On average, each year of education a girl attains increases err future earning potential by 10% and gives her children a 10% better chance of surviving infancy. Some goals address food water and other basic needs. Ensuring that we can feed ourselves is one of the most pressing development challenges. Improving access to family planning helps slow population growth, which reduces demand for food and relieves some of the environmental pressures of over-farming, overfishing, and greenhouse gas emissions. Well spaced births can also lead to better health for both mothers and babies, such as having healthy birth weight and stronger bones. The benefits of birth spacing can have far-reaching effects into childhood – for example, by reducing stunting, a key measure of malnutrition. Planned pregnancies among women who are 18 years or older tend to result in better breastfeeding which also has economic and health benefits. Many goals focus on the relationships between our natural and built environment. More than a billion people – one-sixth of the world population – live in remote areas where agriculture and industry can have a huge effect on the environment. An approach called integrated Population, Health and Environment has the aim of improving access to health services like family planning while managing natural resources in ways that improve human livelihoods and conserve critical ecosystems. According to the Universal Access Project, meeting the current global demand for contraception and slowing population growth could get the world a third of the way to the emissions reductions we need by 2050 to avoid dangerous climate disruptions. Finally, several goals promote peace, justice, and global partnership. It’s no coincidence that the countries with the fastest growing populations are also among the poorest and most volatile. The strain of rapid population growth can threaten a fragile state’s stability and security. Family planning can reduce this stress and contribute to more peaceful societies in which all people’s needs are more routinely met. Family planning has a strong ripple effect across the new development agenda. It’s simply a smart financial investment. The recent Copenhagen Consensus cost-benefit analysis of the 169 proposed targets for the sustainable development goals ranked family planning second overall for the return on investment. The Sustainable Development Goals are about protecting our planet and its inhabitants and helping them flourish. Meeting the demand for voluntary contraceptive services will allow us to take bold leaps toward good lives and better futures for all. Learn more find new connections and get inspired. Visit K4Health’s new web pages on linking family planning and global development and FP2020’s website for ideas.

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