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Government to promote birth spacing

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The Government of India will promote birth spacing by expanding the choice of contraceptives and improving the quality of care and services, the Minister of Health and Family Welfare, J P Nadda said at the Fourth International Conference of Family Planning (ICFP) in Bali. This can be seen as a paradigm shift as the Indian government has so far been focused on female sterilisation in a big way.

While addressing the Indian Caucus at the ICFP, the minister also reiterated the Government of Indias commitment to meeting the FP2020 goals and called upon civil society to work together with the government to accelerate the progress in achieving the goals.

The Additional Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, C K Misra said, The Government of India is committed to allocating increased resources as required to achieve the family planning objectives. The Government is conscious of state wise inequities and is working to address these.

The meeting organised by Population Foundation of India (PFI), brought together political leaders, policy makers, programme managers and implementers, and donors on a common platform to deliberate Indias strategies for meeting FP2020 commitments and attaining the new Sustainable Development Goals. The commitments include improving the quality of care and expanding contraceptive choices available to Indians.

PFI utive Director, Poonam Muttreja, congratulated the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for taking a bold and timely step to expand contraceptive choice by introducing injectables in the public health system, laying down new guidelines for improving the quality of care and providing training to health workers. Quoting from the analysis of a study commissioned by PFI of Resource Requirement for FP 2020, carried out by noted health economist, Prof BarunKanjilal, she said India will need Rs 187.3 billion in the coming four years if the 48 million new users of contraceptives are to be served by the public health system. This is 113.8 billion more than what is projected to be the government budget allocation. Only with additional investment in family planning can we ensure better reach, quality and coverage of health services.

She pointed out that while increasing contraceptive use, there must not be a compromise on the quality of care. She called for the incentivising quality of care, instead of targets achieved.

Global Commitments, Local Actions, the theme for ICFP, highlights international and domestic efforts to improve contraceptive information and services. Among the actions to be showcased at the conference, is PFIs entertainment-education initiative, Main Kuch Bhi Kar Sakti Hoon, which used a 360-degree communication approach that has led to increased awareness of womens rights and adoption of family planning methods among the target population.

PFI will also share its learnings from mShakti, an Interactive Voice Response System (IVRS), that provides the community with an opportunity to give their feedback on health and family planning services at the village and facility level. The Boat Clinic project, based in Assam is another unique initiative being implemented by the Centre for North East Studies and Policy (CNES) and supported by PFI. The boat clinics have been able to improve reproductive health by providing counselling on modern family planning methods to some of the most marginalised communities living on inaccessible islands in the river Brahmaputra.

There is much for India to learn from Indonesia, the host country which succeeded in doubling its contraceptive prence rate to nearly 60 percent between 1976 and 2002 and decreasing the fertility rate by half. The country increased its budget allocation for family planning, improved health worker training and provided free family planning services.

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