According to the UN Population Fund the world’s population reached the staggering figure of 7 billion on October 31st 2011. This is in part due to an increase in the average lifespan from 48years in the early 1950’s to 68years in 2010 (The Lancet, October 2011).
However, 90% of the future population growth is expected to occur in the least developed countries leading to increased competition for resources, increased poverty and reduced access to services, especially healthcare.
Stabilisation of the population requires a concentration on women and their health needs, especially reproductive healthcare. Inherent in improving women’s health is the need to address their reproductive rights and work towards gender equality. Enabling women to control their fertility improves not only their own health but also that of their family and ultimately their whole community.
Fewer and well spaced pregnancies will improve the health of women and allow them to undertake education and become economically productive. Fewer children will result in a healthier population which will in turn reduce the strain on precious resources including water, land and food as well as the cost of healthcare. Couples will be in a better position to educate their children and provide for them economically.
Simultaneously meeting the need for family planning services and maternal and newborn health care in the less developed world will: cut maternal deaths by more than two-thirds; reduce newborn deaths by more than half; and generate a range of other benefits, such as reducing poverty and helping countries achieve economic development goals.
Reaching the 7 billion landmark figure provides an opportunity to recognize that investment in family planning is imperative to improve the lives of not only women but the whole community.
Dr Edith Weisberg & Dr Deborah Bateson