The Road Ahead

The opening of the 2013 International Conference on Family Planning provides a unique opportunity for new insight and all-important context; one that comes, in part, from looking back to interpret findings presented at the previous conference in Dakar, Senegal.

That 2011 event showcased innovative research on a wide breadth of topics ranging from contraceptive use by women with HIV to the role of religious leaders in helping couples choose contraception. The underlying message of each of those studies is that much work remains to be done, says obstetrician/gynecologist Anne Burke, MD, MPH, director of Family Planning for Johns Hopkins Medicine and an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and Bloomberg School of Public Health.

“We still have such a long way to go in family planning,” says Burke who co-authored an editorial about the Dakar conference in a special supplement published September 5, 2013 in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

Burke notes that the general inequality of women worldwide is hampering family planning efforts, contributing to the unmet contraceptive need of at least 222 million women in the developing world. Until leaders pay more attention to women’s rights and value to society, contraceptive access will continue to be a challenge, she says.

Other hurdles include providing enough family planning supplies and services and having a smooth supply chain, as well as making sure couples and individuals have family planning methods that work for their unique needs and circumstances.

“From my perspective as a clinician,” Burke says, “there’s always room for more and better contraceptives.”—Christen Brownlee

Burke is looking forward to many of these topics being  addressed over the next several days. “One of the strengths to this conference is the wide variety of really creative and novel approaches to family planning that people are presenting,” she says.