Ten Elements of Family Planning Success

Around the world, family planning programs have helped women and couples have control over whether and when to have children, resulting in tremendous benefits for individuals, families, and societies.

Programs in developing countries meet the family planning needs of more than 500 million women each year, preventing an estimated 187 million unintended pregnancies and averting 2.7 million infant deaths and 215,000 pregnancy-related deaths each year.

Over the past 40 years, family planning has reduced fertility rates in developing countries, from six births per woman to about three per woman. Lower birth rates contribute to slower population growth, which enables economic development and environmental sustainability. Despite these successes, the family planning agenda remains unfinished.

  • Half of all pregnancies around the world are unplanned or unintended.
  • Some 201 million women in developing countries have an unmet need for contraception—that is, they want to space or limit births but are not currently using contraception.
  • Programs must expand to reach growing numbers of clients as the world's population continues to grow.
  • New financial and administrative changes challenge programs to spend limited resources efficiently.

To help family planning programs succeed more quickly, we have distilled the most important lessons learned about 10 crucial elements of successful family planning programs, which were identified by family planning professionals around the world.

  • Supportive policies ensure that family planning programs have a prominent place on the national agenda with adequate financial resources.
  • Evidence-based programming uses research to understand the needs of intended clientele, monitors progress toward program objectives, and evaluates the program's accomplishments.
  • Strong leadership and good management help programs improve and expand services, scale up best practices, and navigate change.
  • Effective health communication strategies use a systematic process and behavioral theory to develop and carry out communication activities that promote and sustain healthy behavior.
  • Contraceptive security ensures that people are able to obtain and use high-quality contraceptives whenever they want them.
  • High-performing staff has the appropriate knowledge, skills, motivation, and working environment to deliver quality services.
  • Client-centered care enables clients to find suitable contraceptive methods, to continue using their chosen methods, and to return to a provider when they need help or another method.
  • Easy access to services through a variety of delivery points, such as clinics, community-based channels, and retail outlets, makes contraceptive methods available to more potential users.
  • Affordable services that target subsidies to low-income users while shifting users who can afford to pay from the public to the private sector keeps services affordable for all clients.
  • Appropriate integration of services, such as family planning with HIV care or with maternal and child health care, can address a wider range of health needs conveniently for clients while being more efficient for programs.