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Accelerating Access to Family Planning Services in Maharastra and Karnataka – Technical Symposium

A symposium focused on accelerating access to family planning services in Maharashtra and Karnataka, hosted by the Public Health Department, Government of Maharashtra, the National Health Mission, Government of Maharashtra, the National Health Mission, Government of Karnataka, the Mumbai Obstetric & Gynecological Society (MOGS), the Bangalore Society of Obstetrics & Gynaecology (BSOG) and Global Health Strategies was organised in Mumbai today.

The symposium commenced with providing an overview of the family planning landscape in India, highlighting successes, challenges in the supply chain management and provision of quality family planning services, along with strategies to enable women to choose contraceptives best suited to their needs. The symposium also aimed at gathering consensus on recommendations to provide client-centred family planning services, including existing and newer spacing methods in both private and public sectors and ensuring a sustained supply and availability of contraceptives.

Dr. Pradeep Kumar Vyas, Principal Secretary, Public Health Department, Government of Maharashtra was the honourable chief guest at the symposium. The keynote speakers at the event included Dr. Sanjeev Kumar, Commissioner (Health) & Mission Director, National Health Mission, Government of Maharashtra and Dr. Rathan Kelkar, Mission Director, National Health Mission, Government of Karnataka. Dr. Dr. Rishma Pai, President, the Federation of Obstetric & Gynaecological Societies of India (FOGSI) and Secretary, the Mumbai Obstetric & Gynecological Society was also present at the symposium. The event also brought together participants including leading private and public-sector gynaecologists from Maharashtra and Karnataka, representatives from the National Health Mission, Government of Maharashtra, the National Health Mission, Government of Karnataka, Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai, popular celebrities, senior journalists and development partners from both states.

Every time a woman cannot decide freely the number or timing of her children or is denied access to quality family planning services, her basic human right is violated. The right to sexual and reproductive health is an essential component of the right to life, the right to health, the right to education, the right to equality and non-discrimination. Ensuring every woman is able to access quality family planning services is essential to securing the well-being and autonomy of women, while supporting the health and development of communities. Many women in India do not have this freedom due to limited decision-making power in the household, while others lack the information or means to make informed choices. Therefore, women today continue to die at childbirth, give birth to low weight children and suffer from sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Family planning is not only a key strategy to mitigate threats to the reproductive health of women but also a basic right that women should have available to them. At the London Summit on Family Planning in 2012, India committed to providing contraceptive services to an additional 4.8 crore users by the year 2020. This will avert 2.39 crore births, 10 lakh infant deaths and over 42,000 maternal deaths by 2020. Maharashtra and Karnataka have committed to provide family planning services to 29.5 lakh and 18 lakh more women by 2020, respectively. The Government of India is focusing on providing contraceptives to women with little or no access, while simultaneously introducing newer contraceptives, such as injectables, progesterone-only pills and the oral contraceptive pill, Centchroman, through the government programmes.

Dr. Pradeep Kumar Vyas, Principal Secretary, Public Health Department, Government of Maharashtra underlined that, “Providing women and girls with access to contraceptives is transformational – it leads to greater educational and economic opportunities for women, improves the quality of life for women, families and communities, and sustained economic growth. Family Planning is not limited to reducing the family size but is about providing the contraceptive choices to couples. While, 54.7% women in Maharashtra are currently using family planning methods only 7.5% men use family planning methods, which is something we need to change and improve as family planning is an equal responsibility for both men and women.”

Dr. Sanjeev Kumar, Commissioner (Health) & Mission Director, National Health Mission, Government of Maharashtra mentioned, ”When women and men have access to the tools and information they need to plan their families and space their births, they, their families and their communities thrive. Family planning is a key intervention that enables men and women to plan their families. The right to voluntary choice to contraception forms an integral part of the reproductive health and rights of men and women and the government of Maharashtra is making several attempts to ensure that the available contraceptive choices are accessible.”

Dr. Rathan Kelkar, Mission Director, National Health Mission, Government of Karnataka

highlighted, ”Though Karnataka has achieved the replacement fertility level, it is imperative that we focus on the spacing methods and male involvement in family planning. At the London Summit on Family Planning in 2012, India committed to provide contraceptive services to an additional 48 million users and sustain the coverage of 10 crore current contraceptive users. The FP2020 goal for Karnataka is to provide family planning services to 18 lakh additional women and our aim is to provide women the access to contraceptives of their choice.”

Dr. Rishma Pai, President, the Federation of Obstetric & Gynaecological Societies of India, Secretary, the Mumbai Obstetric & Gynecological Society underscored, ”The focus of the family planning programme has shifted from population control and emphasis on permanent methods to saving lives and improving the health of mothers and children, promoting voluntary choice and increasing the basket of choices. The programme prioritises young women and newly married couples; delaying the age of marriage and first pregnancy; and adequate spacing between two children. Thus we as private providers primarily need to focus on the right of a woman to choose and compliment it with adequate counselling for each client.”

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