Dollars and Sense…Why Invest in Family Planning

At a time when funding for global health appears to be shrinking—and other parts of our national budget look to be getting larger and larger—I have to stop and reflect on how the limited resources for global health might be spent to have the biggest possible impact. No doubt that many people working in global health are going through the same soul-searching process as each of us thinks about how the limited resources can be used not only to improve health, but also to contribute to the wellbeing and development of the world’s poor.

Working in the field of family planning, I became an “accidental activist”—becoming more and more convinced that investments in family planning are critical to helping individuals and countries achieve their potential. Family planning has been referred to as a “best buy” for many years, and when I started looking at the evidence, I found incredible results. Until I started seeing this type of evidence, I thought of investments in health as the right thing to do—so that people can live productive, satisfying lives. But seeing the benefits that result from investing in family planning relative to the cost of providing services, I began to see it as something that has large financial returns—in addition to being the right thing for improving the lives of women, children, families, and nations.