The INFO Project of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Communication Programs convened an expert panel recently to launch an innovative new guidebook, Family Planning: A Global Handbook for Providers, and highlight ways the book can help advance global health.
Speakers at the event, who included a US congressional legislative expert and some of the world’s leading women’s health experts, lauded the new book, emphasizing the strong links between family planning, women’s health and economic development.
“Only 15% of married couples in Africa use modern forms of family planning, and this is not just a health issue,” said Gloria Steele, Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Global Health. “Improvements in health for children and mothers have been very important indicators of any progress we make in combating poverty,” she said.
Speakers emphasized the importance of disseminating the handbook not only to providers in the field but also to educators and health ministries worldwide in order to correct policy that is not evidence-based.
“It’s not just a matter of distributing them but having them embedded in the process of service delivery, and especially in training,” said Jim Shelton, MD, Science Advisor for USAID’s Global Health Bureau.
Since its release in June, the handbook has been distributed to more than 100 countries based on more than 40,000 requests. Ministries of Health in countries including South Africa and Iran and medical training centers from Ghana to Lebanon have ordered the handbook, which is available at no cost to readers in developing countries. Representatives from embassies including Bangladesh, Haiti, Kenya, and Liberia attended the Washington launch event, with many expressing interest in endorsing the handbook for adoption in their home countries.
“Here’s why this handbook is important,” said David Oot, Associate Vice President for Health at Save the Children. “If we want to be successful we need environments informed by up to date evidence-based technical information and guidance,” he said, “If policymakers, for example, believe a woman must be 35 years old and have three children to use injectable contraception, this has implications for service providers of all levels.”
“The handbook’s information is required to dispel rumors and myths,” Oot added.
“Really, providers don’t sit there plotting how they are going to refuse contraceptive methods to the next woman who walks in this door,” said Irina Yacobson, MD, Assistant Medical Director in Family Health International’s Applied Research Department. “They think they are being careful.”
“Unnecessary tests and procedures place unjustified restrictions on who can use contraceptive methods,” Yacobson continued, “and that can dramatically limit access to contraception and lead to unplanned and often risky pregnancy.”
“It’s not enough to distribute this so every provider has it in their hands,” she said. “It is important to reach out to pre-service educators and work with ministries so the handbook does not contradict national guidelines.”
“We hope it will reinforce appropriate behaviors and change those that are not evidence-based,” said Ellen Starbird, Deputy Director at the Office of Population/Reproductive Health of USAID.
Family Planning: A Global Handbook for Providers
Published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the INFO Project at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for Communication Programs, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the handbook brings together the best available scientific evidence on family planning methods and related topics into one easy-to-use publication. The book is the result of collaboration among 30 leading health organizations around the world. As the fourth cornerstone of WHO’s family planning guidance, Family Planning: A Global Handbook for Providers offers technical information to help health care providers deliver family planning methods appropriately and effectively. Together, the four cornerstones support the safe and effective provision and use of family planning methods and can be used to develop national guidelines.
Distributing the Handbook
The handbook is currently available at no cost to readers in developing countries in English both online and as a bound publication. Translations are planned for at least 10 languages, including Spanish, French, Portuguese (Brazilian), Portuguese (African), Romanian, Russian, Hindi, Swahili, Arabic and Urdu.
Further information and instructions for ordering can be found at: www.fphandbook.org.