Health Policy Project

The Health Policy Project ended in 2016. Work continued under Health Policy Plus (HP+) until 2022.


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ICFP 2016: Committing to the Big Picture

January 26, 2016

By Jay Gribble, Deputy Director, FP/RH and Senior Fellow

ICFP opened this afternoon, but there’s already been a lot of pre-conference activity. As I’ve looked at the program, I have to admit to being overwhelmed at the variety of sessions. Addressing issues from global advocacy to clinic-based service delivery, our field is expansive—and gets bigger every day.

Olive Mtema presenting at ICFP 2016
Working with parliamentarians to mobilize resources for family planning, HP+'s Olive Mtema shares her expertise.

With a theme of “Global Commitments, Local Actions”, I’m reminded that we need to have our head in the sky and our feet on the ground. I’m guilty of having my head in the sky, focusing on global issues and perhaps too often turning to the big picture, without being adequately grounded where things really happen. National and subnational actions are how global commitments are realized, and without paying attention to FP-related issues of national and subnational levels, global commitments will show few results.  

Global commitments matter—they inspire us to set goals for ourselves. The goal of reaching 120 million additional women and girls with family planning is a lofty and aspirational, and has led to the FP2020 global initiative. There’s a lot of focus on achieving this goal, as countries make national commitments to do their part. In addition to numbers of new users, FP2020 commitments are also organized around policy and political, financial, and program and service delivery—without these commitments, it will be difficult to reach the numeric goals the countries have set.

“What is measured is what matters” has become a mantra in our field. We care about impact; we care about statistics; investments made in data collection have been massive. While we focus on what is measurable, we need to remember that other quality-related issues are more nuanced and more difficult to measure. Ensuring that FP services are provided in a voluntary, rights-based environment is critical. And we are starting to see the development of measurements that get at assessing this contextual factor. It reflects progress that not only do the numbers of new users matter, but that measures of quality matter, too.

The policy and political commitments are critical to achieving national and subnational goals—and to individual goals, too. The emphasis again on youth at ICFP reflects the importance of addressing this large segment of the world’s population—ensuring they can avoid unplanned pregnancy, remain free of HIV/AIDS, and achieve their human potential. Policy provides a foundation for responding to people’s FP/RH needs, and the emerging field of social accountability in FP/RH provides approaches to follow up on those commitments. And while it’s difficult to measure the impact of policy, we know that without policies in place and implemented, we will fall far short of the goal of serving 120 million more women and girls with modern contraception.

Financial commitments also matter. Yet tracking financial commitments can be elusive—are the pledges “new money” or are they sustaining the funding that is already in place? One thing is certain—without adequate funding, programs—family planning or any other kind—will not function. Advocacy for increased funding is vital to allowing programs to work and to following through on commitments.

Central to commitments to FP2020 are those related to programs and service delivery. Countries have made commitments related to method choice, quality providers, and expanding access. At ICFP, we’ll learn more about how program improvements have been implemented and how these commitments are helping women and girls reach their own personal goals. Yet many of these types of commitments are also difficult to measure; we turn to measures like contraceptive prevalence rate and number of new users to help us monitor changes as proxies for the effectiveness of following through on these types of commitments.

When it comes to commitments—regardless of the type of commitment we have in mind, let’s focus on the big picture. The numbers are important, and so are the other commitments to develop and implement sound policies, to provide adequate funding, and to introduce programmatic and service delivery changes. They all matter. And when we look beyond the number, our big commitment is to help women and men have the number of children they want, when they want to have them—and providing access to modern effective contraception is central to helping them do so.

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The Health Policy Project is a five-year cooperative agreement funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development under Agreement No. AID-OAA-A-10-00067, beginning September 30, 2010. The project's HIV-related activities are supported by the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). It is implemented by Futures Group, in collaboration with Plan International USA, Avenir Health (previously Futures Institute), Partners in Population and Development, Africa Regional Office (PPD ARO), Population Reference Bureau (PRB), RTI International, and White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood (WRA). The information provided on this Web site is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

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