Preparations are underway for the 2011 International Conference on Family Planning in Dakar later this year. Although the date is some months away, the organizers are encouraging potential participants and interested persons to become engaged in online discussion forums. An issue we would like to explore here is whether there is any connection between malaria and family planning.
One positive connection is child survival. Researchers in Ethiopia report that, “Immunization, breastfeeding and low parity mothers were independently found to be protective from childhood death. Strengthening the child survival initiatives, namely universal child immunization, family planning and breast feeding — is strongly recommended.” These characteristics were positively associated with reduced deaths from pneumonia, malaria and diarrhea.Â Clearly the reduced parity component can be achieved in part through successful family planning.
Connections may come through health systems strengthening. Experiences from the Lao Peoples’ Republic show that, “Synergies of Global Fund support with the health system include improved access to services, institutional strengthening and capacity building …” For example opportunities to enhance community service delivery for malaria could also be used to extend family planning services. Thus, sometimes malaria activities are integrated into successful reproductive health services, and at other times the reverse happens, or one finds malaria, family planning and other services handled under one roof as seen in Senegal or eastern Burma.
A great concern is that malaria is dangerous in pregnancy. Any way to space pregnancies or limit the number of times women face the risk of malaria in pregnancy, can save mothers from malaria deaths directly or indirectly from malaria-induced anemia. We encourage dialogue among all partners in maternal and reproductive health and malaria control leading up to the November conference.