Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Family Planning Program


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Seattle, WA
US United States


About the project Edit

One of the most cost-effective public health interventions is family planning, which can significantly improve the health of women and their families. Voluntary family planning empowers women and men to decide when to have a child, enabling healthier families, communities and nations to thrive.

Our goal: Increase the availability, quality, and access to family planning in developing countries to improve health and give women and men the opportunity to plan how many children to have and when to have them.


In what ways is this project unique and creative? Edit

What is the social value of this project? Edit

Through family planning:

• Maternal mortality is reduced. Family planning could prevent up to one third of all maternal deaths by empowering women to decide when to have a child and avoid unintended pregnancies and abortions.

• Deaths and illness among young women are reduced. Pregnancy is the leading cause of death for women under 19, with complications of childbirth and abortion being the major factors. Adolescents aged 15 to 19 are twice as likely to die in childbirth as those in their 20s, and girls under 15 are five times as likely to die as those in their 20s.

• Child health and survival is improved. Reducing the number of births less than two years apart, births to very young and older women, and higher-order births, family planning lowers child and infant mortality. For example, if women spaced their births at least 36 months apart, almost 3 million deaths to children under age 5 could be averted.

Family planning improves women’s life options.
Unwanted pregnancy is among the leading causes of school dropouts. Women who delay childbearing until their 20s and bear fewer children are more likely and better able to stay in school longer and invest in their child’s education. Girls who have been educated are likely to marry later, and to have smaller, healthier families.

Family planning reduces unintended pregnancies and abortions.
More than 200 million women in developing countries report that they want to avoid a pregnancy but lack access to effective contraceptives. Women without access to modern contraceptives have children too close together, have more unintended pregnancies, and are at a greater risk of dying due to complications during childbirth or unsafe abortion. Of the 210 million pregnancies occurring each year, nearly 80 million are unintended. There are an estimated 20 million unsafe abortions resulting in nearly 67,000 deaths annually.

Family planning helps countries reach their development goals in health and development.
By averting unintended births, countries reap health, education, and economic benefits through reduced pressure on the environment, agriculture, and water and sanitation. With fewer children, families are more able to invest in their children’s education and health. As such, family planning is essential to reducing poverty and achieving the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Increasing access to quality family planning requires renewed commitment.
Despite being considered a “best buy” among health investments, from 1994 to 2005, annual funding for family planning decreased by more than 60 percent, while the number of couples who wanted family planning increased. Funding for contraceptive research and development dropped as well.

What is the potential of this project to expand and develop? Edit

Our Approach: Family Planning
We’re supporting efforts to make high quality, cost-effective, and voluntary family planning services and supplies available in developing countries and reach the most vulnerable populations. We’re partnering with governments, non-governmental organizations, and other funders to:

Increase funding and supportive policies and systems for family planning
With a lack of funding for contraceptives and weak procurement processes globally, stock-outs and wastage of contraceptives abound. We’re advocating for increased funding for family planning, better coordination among donors and governments to deliver products, and improved systems for contraceptive procurement.

Focus on cities with high rates of unintended pregnancy and high maternal and infant deaths
Virtually all future growth will take place in urban areas. We are supporting the development of high-quality and cost-effective voluntary family planning programs that will support urban populations to increase their access and use of contraceptives. We are focusing our investments on urban areas in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, which have rapid population growth, high maternal and infant death rates, and a low use of contraceptives.

Develop new contraceptives and improve existing ones
We’re working to expand the types of contraceptive choices that will meet the needs of people in developing countries, with a focus on cities in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. We’re funding specific efforts to identify new contraceptives and increase the number of scientists specializing in contraceptive development. We’re also working to improve the delivery of both existing and new contraceptives.

Close key knowledge gaps in family planning
There is still much to learn about designing effective programs to increase access to family planning among poor people in the developing world. We support culturally-sensitive efforts to conduct intensive research to identify the best approaches to increase access to contraception among diverse clients, including HIV-positive men and women.

What was the triggering factor of this project? Edit

Family planning saves lives.
One of the most cost-effective public health interventions available today is family planning. Voluntary family planning is a critical lifesaving intervention that can significantly improve the health of women and their families.

What is the business model of this project? Edit

Key Partners
• IntraHealth
• African Population and Health Research Center
• Family Health International (FHI)
• German Foundation for World Population (DSW)
• Jhpiego
• Johns Hopkins University's Center for Communications Programs
• Population Action International (PAI)
• United Nations Foundation (UNF)
• University of North Carolina (UNC)
• World Health Organization (WHO)
• DfID

Recent Grants

Oct 31, 2012
Johns Hopkins University

Oct 17, 2012
Equilibres et Populations

Sep 30, 2012
Concept Foundation

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