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'Go to the go-go club'

Social workers urged to take family planning message to the streets

BY KIMONE THOMPSON Associate editor — Features thompsonk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, November 15, 2012    

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IF the country is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and widen access to family planning services especially, among the poor and uneducated, social workers need to take their initiatives to the streets.

So says general practitioner Dr Sandra Knight, who chaired the launch of the 2012 State of the World Population at the Comprehensive Clinic in Kingston yesterday.

"We need to go to the bars, the go-go clubs, the Weddy Weddys, the Passa Passas," she said.

The latter two references are popular weekly parties which were once major features of the city's night life.

"We can use the church to help us get there, but we have to expand our reach. When Jesus wanted to get saints he didn't go to church; he went to where the unsaved were," she added.

Knight, chair of the National Family Planning Board (NFPB), said while Jamaica's fertility rate is 2.4 per cent, it was no reason to rest on our laurels as "there are pockets all across the country where there are people who are not having 2.4 children; they are having enough for the rest of us who aren't having any".

The NFPB provides contraceptives and counselling at designated health centres across the island. It also pushes health promotion and behaviour change programme, among other things. But reaching the pockets to which she referred, Dr Knight said unconventional means were required.

Data presented by NFPB acting Executive Director Dr Sharlene Jarrett said as of 2008, 7.2 per cent of Jamaican women between age 15 and 44 had an unmet need for contraceptives. It was a decline from 8.5 per cent in 2002, nine per cent in 1997, and 13.9 per cent in 1993.

In presenting the findings of this year's population document, produced by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and titled By Choice, not by Chance: Family Planning, Human Rights and Development, UNFPA director for the sub-regional office for the Caribbean Geeta Sethi said there was a direct correlation between access to contraceptives and unintended pregnancies. There is also a link, she said, between education, wealth, and location (rural versus urban) on contraceptive use.

"About 222 million women in developing countries still lack access to reliable, high quality family planning services and information, and in developing countries as well, high levels of unintended pregnancies exist among certain pockets of the population," she said.

"Even now, a lot of women do not have access to modern methods of family planning, and where they don't have this access, unintended pregnancies are over 80 per cent.

Said Dr Sethi: "In developing countries more than half of the population (57 per cent) would like to regulate their families and would like to be the ones to decide when to have children and how many to have, but over one in four of these are not able to do so. They are denied the right to plan their families.

The factors causing this, she said, are poverty, gender inequality, and social pressure.

"The adolescent most likely to become mothers are poor, uneducated, and live in rural areas. Birth rates are over four times as high among uneducated adolescent girls age 15-19 as among girls with at least secondary schooling.

"A similar gap exists based on wealth and residence," she said.

Worldwide, the fertility rate relatively low, at 2.5 births per woman. In more developed countries, it is 1.7. However, the figures climb for less developed and least developed countries, as well as Sub-Saharan Africa where they are 2.8, 4.5 and 5.1 respectively.

Yesterday's launch of By Choice, not by Chance: Family Planning, Human Rights and Development — presents global data and trends in sexual reproductive health and explores the right to family planning, the social and economic impact of it, as well as its costs and benefits — was a collaboration between the Planning Institute of Jamaica, UNFPA and NFPB.

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