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Europe should lead in promoting family planning in poor countries

EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Wednesday November 1, 2006. In North America the embargo lifts at 18:30H ET Tuesday October 31, 2006

EARLY ONLINE PUBLICATION: Wednesday November 1, 2006

EMBARGO: 00:01H (London time) Wednesday November 1, 2006. In North America the embargo lifts at 18:30H ET Tuesday October 31, 2006.

Europe, rather than the US, should take the lead in revitalising global commitment to family planning, according to the third paper in the Online/Series published today.

Historically, the US has led on promoting family planning; however the Bush administration's failure to promote policies that are effective means that Europe may be needed to take the lead.

The authors argue that family planning should have a higher priority than investment in HIV prevention and treatment in most poor countries, because population growth poses a greater threat to development. While most poor countries already have population policies in place, international encouragement to implement them with conviction and commitment is needed, state the authors.

"Prominent world leaders such as Kofi Annan and Tony Blair regularly portray HIV/AIDS as an economic catastrophe and stupendous sums have been mobilised for the cause. The irony of the current situation is that continued rapid population growth poses a bigger threat to poverty reduction in most poor countries than does HIV/AIDS. For instance, in Ghana, HIV/AIDS is sucking funds, staff, and political energy from family planning, and this is a country where women are more likely to die of unsafe abortion than of AIDS…In Uganda, with a moderately severe longstanding HIV epidemic, population size is nevertheless projected to grow from 30 million today to 61 million by 2025, and further to 127 million by the middle of this century, posing huge difficulties for economic advance," write John Cleland (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK) and colleagues.

Promoting family planning in countries with high birth rates are multiple has the potential to reduce poverty and hunger and avert 32% of all maternal deaths and nearly 10% of childhood deaths. It would also contribute substantially to women's empowerment, achievement of universal primary schooling, and long-term environmental sustainability.

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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