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Size does matter

India was the first country in the world to adopt the family planning programme officially in 1952. India's population has already reached over 1.30 billion. According to a UN report, the country's population will be more than that of China by 2028.

India has come a long way, from a targeted approach to a target-free approach and, finally, towards stabilizing population growth, which declined to 1.4 per cent in 2016. Two hundred million births were averted till 2016 as a result of the family planning programme. Life expectancy in India has increased remarkably, from 32 years in 1951 to 69 years now. The improvement in the health sector is reflected in the declining death rate. Significantly, the fertility rate, too, has declined to three children in 2011 as per the last census report from six children in 1951.

Better access to family planning information, services and supplies has had dramatic health benefits for women and children. Recent evidence indicates that family planning is a cost-effective intervention and has an immediate impact on maternal mortality. Family planning is also useful to control unsustainable population growth and its negative impacts on the economy, environment and development initiatives.

Rights-based family planning is a key development in the last 65 years. It has transformed and saved the lives of millions of women and children, helped reduce population growth and supported families to break the poverty cycle. It's the right of all individual to decide freely and for themselves, whether, when and how many children to have.

Keep improving

Yet, by 2020, there will be more than 45 million women of reproductive age with an unmet need for contraception. Lack of access to modern methods of contraception has a direct impact on women's health and well-being. Here's an area where family-planning intervention can lead to huge improvements in the lives of women and their families.

Family welfare programmes are providing a wide spectrum of services encompassing maternal health, child survival, adolescent care, HIV/AIDS, safe abortion and so on. The availability of contraception and dual protection hold the key to reducing potential HIV infections in children through rights-based prevention of unintended pregnancies in women living with HIV. Contraception use also prevents new infections in women, men and adolescents and reduces maternal mortality. Safe abortion services contributed significantly to family welfare. There is a need to expand facilities and raise the number of health professionals providing abortion services legally.

However, these improvements notwithstanding, a lot remains to be done. Population stabilization, access to healthcare and safe family planning services remain priority areas still. In 2014, 16 young women died after attending a female sterilization camp in Bilaspur, Chattisgarh. The incident had an adverse impact on sterilization initiatives.

The ministry of health and family welfare has launched Mission Parivar Vikas, which aims to improve access to contraceptives through the delivery of assured services, ensuring commodity security as well as the acceleration of quality family planning services. Its services are available at all primary health centres and government hospitals.

India's family planning programme is one of the oldest in the world. It has a significant role in ensuring the economic prosperity of the country. Most of the services related to family planning have been provided by government agencies, particularly in rural India. Increasing the budgetary allocation and greater collaboration with voluntary organizations along with robust monitoring would help achieve better results.

Opinion

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