New Delhi – Family planning (FP), especially postpartum family planning (PPFP) with a focus on spacing between births, is at the forefront of the Indian government’s health plans. This is the clear message from the national and state review meetings on FP that began in late 2012 and will continue through the first half of 2013. Organized by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India (GoI), in partnership with Jhpiego, these meetings aim to review the current PPFP program and disseminate the government’s strategy for strengthening PPFP services throughout the country. The meetings also provide an opportunity for states to share their experiences, adopt best practices and strengthen and align their strategies.
Family planning officials from 35 states and union territories attended the inaugural national review meeting in November 2012, where Ms. Anuradha Gupta, Additional Secretary and Mission Director of the National Rural Health Mission, underscored the clear shift in the GoI’s policy toward positioning FP as a reproductive, maternal, neonatal, child and adolescent health intervention and detailed the national strategy on family planning. “We are looking at very concrete action with a sense of urgency,” said Ms. Gupta. (Read full text of Ms. Gupta’s speech)
Reiterating that the GoI’s shift in FP policy is from a population stabilization approach to one of improving maternal and child health, Dr. S.K. Sikdar, Deputy Commissioner (In-charge), Family Planning Division, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, identified the priorities of the FP program and the new GoI schemes, and outlined the way forward. Regarding birth spacing methods, he said that the key objectives of the government are “to provide information, services and commodities to every client, in every nook and corner of the country.”
“With more than 3.3 million still births every year . . . more than 4 million neonatal deaths and more than half the neonatal deaths happen[ing] in less than 72 hours of delivery, at least one woman dies every minute from causes related to pregnancy and childbirth, and most postpartum deaths occur among women who lack access to skilled care during labor and delivery or in the immediate postpartum period,” said Dr. Sikdar, emphasizing the sense of urgency.
To disseminate the GoI’s family planning strategy among the high-focus states, state review workshops are now under way to prepare state-specific strategies in tandem with the national approach. Uttarakhand’s PPFP review workshop, held December 20–21, 2012, was conducted in partnership with Jhpiego under the U.S. Agency for International Development–supported Maternal and Child Health Integrated Program. The next such workshop will be held in Uttar Pradesh in February.
Jhpiego has played and will continue to play a very active role, working hand in hand at the national level and within the states, in planning and implementing the PPFP strategy. This work will help women delay motherhood, adequately space the births of their children and avoid unintended pregnancies and unsafe abortions, saving many lives and strengthening families.