World Contraception Day: What Puts a Smile on Your Face?
By Jay Gribble, Deputy Director, Family Planning and Reproductive Health
I admit it: I’m tired and cranky from the pandemic; I miss seeing colleagues and friends; I can’t wait to go into the supermarket. The idea of Pandemic Affective Disorder is becoming a reality to me—and maybe to you too. It’s hard to see the glass as half empty or half full when, much of the time, I want to break the glass into lots of little pieces. I have much to be thankful for—I’m healthy; I have plenty of work to keep me busy; I have a comfortable home to live in. I need to change my attitude and turn my growl into a purr.
One way that helps me make an attitude adjustment is to pause and reflect on what’s going on and why I feel this way. Many years ago, a wise women told me that if I continue to ask why something is happening to me, I’m likely to get stuck; but, if I ask what lessons I could learn from the experience, I will start to see things from a different perspective and gain some clarity. As I started writing this, I had to pause and reflect on my life and our world. And my scowl turned into a smile. Why? Because I am lucky to work in a field that provides benefits to millions of women around the world. World Contraception Day gives me a lot of reasons to smile.
Access to contraception is a game changer. Empowered women are more likely to use contraception than other women. That makes sense to me—there are hurdles that many women, especially those who reside in traditional settings, have to overcome in order to use contraception. But the fact that these women make the decision to use contraception must be liberating. Having the ability to take control over their fertility can empower women to make other decisions that take them further in life—such as pursuing education, working outside the home, and/or focusing on the children that they already have. Choosing to use contraception may also empower women to make other decisions that have positive impacts on their lives, including addressing gender-based violence, standing up against traditional norms that undermine women’s confidence and empowerment, and pursuing leadership opportunities in the community. Observing this self-efficacy in women puts a smile on my face—many know what they want and pursue it.
Access to contraception improves the health of women and their children. Using contraceptives to plan, delay, and space pregnancies is linked to improved birth outcomes for babies, either directly or through healthy maternal behaviors practiced during pregnancy. That makes me smile. For many years, we have known that births to women under the age of 20 are associated with a range of poorer outcomes when compared to women ages 20 to 35, including risks of eclampsia; puerperal endometritis and systemic infection during pregnancy; as well as hemorrhage, prolonged labor, and anemia. And yet, each year, approximately 21 million young women under the age of 20 get pregnant. The infants of these young women face higher risks of low birth weight, preterm delivery, and severe neonatal conditions. We need to continue to focus more attention on helping young women avoid unplanned pregnancies for their own health and for the health of their children. Improving access to contraception for young women has emerged as a global priority—and that puts a smile on my face.
Helping women—and men—achieve their desired family size is critical to economic development. For decades, the Health Policy Plus project and its predecessors have used the RAPID model to help decision-makers around the world understand that, if populations grow at a faster pace, leaders will need to invest more resources in schools; hospitals and medical personnel; and food production, just to stay at current levels—without really improving the situation. More recently, the DemDiv (demographic dividend) and Family Planning-Sustainable Development Goals models have shown that, when policies that address family planning and human capital are coupled with sound economic policies, countries can experience substantial increases in per capita gross domestic product—helping them to achieve their economic goals. In other words, a well-educated, healthy population that grows at a slower rate can experience greater economic growth than a fast-growing population with inadequate investments in health and education. Spurring economic growth by helping countries to manage one of their most important assets—their population—puts a big smile on my face.
World Contraception Day 2020 falls at a particularly challenging time. Most of us are tired of social distancing and the other measures we follow to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. But by working to change my attitude, I’m reminded that what we as a global community choose to focus on today—the fact that contraception underscores empowerment and improves health and economic development around the world—is a worthy cause to celebrate and this makes me smile. What about World Contraception Day puts a smile on your face?
If you have a twitter account, tell us why you smile on World Contraception Day
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