Effective family planning in developing countries may limit population growth

Monday, February 21, 2011

WASHINGTON - Experts have said that an effective family planning in developing countries could control the population growth, projected to peak at more than 9 billion people by 2050.

A new research has suggested that prevention of unwanted births may actually be a larger factor for the decline in fertility rates in developing, low-income countries.

The advent of safe and more effective birth control means that people have better control of when and if they have children, said John Casterline, director of the Initiative in Population Research at Ohio State University.

“While it is true that people now want smaller families, my research suggests a more important factor in the decline in birth rates over the past half-century is that people are now more successful than in the past in having the number of children they want,” he said.

This fact has important implications on the effort by policymakers to limit global population growth in the coming decades, he added.

“The large increases in population that are predicted will only exacerbate other problems, such as resource depletion,” said Casterline.

“We want to minimize the growth that occurs, and there is no viable way to do that except through more effective family planning,” he added.

Casterline’s research also showed how the success of contraception has played a large role in the fertility decline in low-income countries, even more than the more widespread desire for smaller families.

In his analysis of fertility decline in 50 low-income countries from 1975 to 2008, Casterline estimated that about 44 percent of that decline was the result of prevention of unwanted births.

About 13 percent was due to people wanting smaller families. The remainder was other factors, such as women marrying later and thus having fewer children.

“We are a lot more successful in family planning than we have ever been. It is one part of the whole medical and health revolution, ” said Casterline.

But expanding that success, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where the needs for family planning are greatest and where future population growth is expected to be the largest, is a big problem.

Studies have shown that about one in four women (who are currently married or in a union) in Africa have an unmet need for family planning.

In Asia and Latin America, 17 to 18 percent of women have unmet needs for family planning.

Just meeting this need could have a major effect on population growth.

One study suggested that meeting the need for family planning could reduce the growth in population in developing countries by about 250 million people by 2050, said Casterline.

“We commonly find in developing countries a belief that most modern contraceptives pose more health risk than either pregnancy or induced abortion, which of course is not true,” said Casterline.

“We need to address those concerns,” he said.

“We know there are women in many parts of the world who would prefer to have fewer children. We need to do a better job in providing them the effective family planning services they want,” he added.

Casterline presented his findings on the contribution of family planning programs to stabilizing world population at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. (ANI)

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