International leaders and experts advocate for rights-based family planning, examine threat COVID-19 poses to reproductive health
BALTIMORE, Feb. 4, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- More than 7,000 people attended this week's global online forum, "Not Without FP," to champion the important role family planning plays in universal health coverage (UHC) schemes, and explore the impact of COVID-19 on sexual and reproductive health and rights worldwide.
The forum convened at a pivotal time – as the international community plans to move beyond its Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) goals and UHC gains traction globally – made even more complex by the COVID-19 pandemic and growing civil unrest and inequity.
"These disruptive events, while painful, can be important opportunities to transform the way we think and do our work," said Jose G. Rimon II, director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, host of the two-day forum. "It will take a massive mindset change and more global collaboration to ensure family planning is an essential service that's accessible to all."
Sessions featured presentations on how various family planning actors – including women themselves – are responding to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Senegal, Uganda, the United States and elsewhere.
Just days after U.S. President Joe Biden repealed the Mexico City policy – also known as the "global gag rule," which severely limited funds for reproductive healthcare services abroad under the previous administration – USAID's Acting Administrator Gloria Steele addressed forum participants in her first public appearance since assuming office.
USAID is a key supporter of FP2020, a global partnership that promotes universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and rights. As FP2020 prepares to embark on a new decade of partnership – and transition to FP2030 – Executive Director Beth Schlachter said, "Family planning is a key intervention for countries in reaching universal health coverage. Because for women and girls, access to contraception is a fundamental component of primary healthcare."
Other speakers included Dr. Indu Bhushan, CEO of Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY), the world's largest government-sponsored healthcare program providing free services to more than 550 million people in India; Dr. Tlaleng Mofokeng, United Nations Special Rapporteur, medical doctor and syndicated sexual health columnist; and Mechai Viravaidya, an activist and leader also known as the "Condom King" for his innovative work destigmatizing condoms and promoting safe sex and family planning in Thailand.
"Not Without FP" serves as a springboard to the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) 2021, scheduled to be held in Pattaya City, Thailand, and co-hosted by the Gates Institute, the Kingdom of Thailand's Ministry of Public Health, The Royal Thai College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, and local NGO Population and Community Development Association.
Thailand's decades of success in family planning and UHC made it a natural partner for ICFP. Anutin Charnvirakul, the Kingdom of Thailand's deputy prime minister and minister of public health, opened the virtual forum on 2 February with an overview of his country's strategies, including the critical role government plays in making healthcare services widely accessible through district hospitals and community-based programs.
The voices of community members were represented throughout the event as participants relayed first-person stories in "Real Talk, Real Voices, Real FP," discussed their roles as religious leaders and healthcare workers, and shared youth perspectives.
Session and panel recordings from "Not Without FP" are accessible online and can be found here.
About Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health
Located in the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the Gates Institute is dedicated to the advancement of scholarship and science for social change. The Institute conducts and facilitates cutting-edge research in family planning, adolescent and youth reproductive health and populations dynamics, and translates science into evidence-informed policies, programs and practice. For more information, please visit www.gatesinstitute.org.
About International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP)
Since 2009, the International Conference on Family Planning has served as a strategic inflection point for the global reproductive health community. In addition to being the world's largest scientific conference on family planning and reproductive health, ICFP serves as an international platform for countries, organizations, and individuals to make important commitments and celebrate achievements. Sponsored by the Gates Institute, the ICFP convenes every two years and is scheduled to meet in Pattaya City, Thailand, in 2021.
For more information, please visit www.icfp2021.org.
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SOURCE International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP)