ADDIS ABABA (15 November 2013) This week, the Population Council presented findings from more than 40 research studies at the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Council experts showcased new research during panel sessions, oral presentations, roundtable discussions, a press conference, and poster presentations.
Population Council presentations highlighted the Council's strengths, including: opportunities for developing and introducing new contraceptive and multipurpose prevention technologies; expanding access to family planning through innovative financing mechanisms; and promoting gender equity by encouraging male involvement in family planning.
"The International Conference on Family Planning provided an important venue for exchanging knowledge about the benefits of family planning for women, their partners, and families," said Peter J. Donaldson, Ph.D., President, Population Council. "More people are gaining access to family planning, thanks to growing political leadership and financial commitments. These commitments are essential for building stronger and healthier communities around the world."
Selected presentations are summarized below.
Developing and Increasing Access to New Technology
Panel Session: "From Bench to Bedside: Public, Private, Regional, and Donor Perspectives on the Challenges and Opportunities for Introducing New Contraceptives" (Ruth Merkatz, Ph.D., Director, Clinical Development of the Council's Reproductive Health Program)
Council President Peter J. Donaldson, Ph.D. moderated a panel session on the importance of collaboration between funding agencies, developers, and in-country networks to manage the process of delivering new contraceptives to areas with the greatest need. Speakers included Dr. Judy Manning [U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)], Dr. Frans van Birgelen (Merck Sharp & Dohme), Dr. Elizabeth Anne Bukusi (Kenya Medical Research Institute [KEMRI] Nairobi, Kenya), and Dr. Ruth Merkatz (Population Council).
"Maintaining a clear focus on unmet family planning needs, an understanding of health systems, and relentless efforts to lower costs and improve quality are essential components of successful contraceptive development," said Ruth Merkatz, Ph.D., Clinical Director the Population Council's Reproductive Health program. "Ongoing research underscores the true value of a cross-collaborative approach, which is essential as we work towards expanding access to novel methods in low-resource settings."
Presentation during the "Best in Class: Top Scientific Research" Special Session: "Developing a Model of Acceptability for a New Long-Acting Contraceptive Vaginal- Ring" (Ruth Merkatz, Ph.D., Director, Clinical Development of the Council's Reproductive Health Program)
The Council is the leading developer of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs), and more than 120 million women worldwide have used a Council-developed method. The Council leads contraceptive development from start to finish through a "bench to bedside" approach whereby scientists identify and develop drugs and delivery systems based on needs in the field, conduct preclinical studies and human clinical trials, and work with regulatory authorities to bring new technologies to the market.
The Council developed a one-year contraceptive vaginal ring that contains ethinyl estradiol, an approved, marketed synthetic estrogen, and Nestorone, an investigational progestin that is a new chemical entity. If approved by regulatory authorities, the one-year ring will offer a unique option for those seeking a long-acting, reversible contraceptive that is under the woman's control, is effective for one full year, and does not require insertion by a health care professional. The one-year ring is intended to not require refrigeration, a feature that is important in low resource settings.
"Significant barriers may prevent women in developing countries from accessing a range of contraceptives to meet their needs and a woman's acceptance of a new method is important to ensure continued use," said Dr. Ruth Merkatz. "These findings support our growing understanding about women's experiences using the one-year ring. We look forward to continued evaluation of our acceptability data and the submission of a New Drug Application to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration."
Panel Presentation: "Constructing a Socio-Behavioral Framework for Multipurpose Prevention Technologies: Lessons Learned from Family Planning" (Martha Brady, Senior Associate at the Population Council)
Multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs) are products that seek to provide simultaneous protection against pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections, including HIV. A number of MPTs are currently under development.
This presentation formed part of a panel session titled "Multipurpose Prevention Technologies for Family Planning/Reproductive Health: Using Family Planning to Inform the Next Great Wave in Protection for Women and Girls," which was co-chaired by Dr. Judy Manning (USAID) and Dr. Elizabeth Anne Bukusi (KEMRI). Speakers also reviewed trends in sexual and reproductive health epidemiological and demographic data; input from providers and users on product attributes of MPTs; and donor coordination related to the development of MPTs that build upon a common platform of family planning.
"Multipurpose prevention technologies represent a major step forward in the R&D landscape, and have the potential to improve the sexual and reproductive health of women and girls globally," said Martha Brady, Senior Associate, Population Council. "We hope the lessons learned here will inform the development and introduction of MPTs as we advance these critical research efforts."
Novel Strategies for Expanding Access
Oral Presentation: "Organizing the Evidence on Family Planning Voucher Programs: A Taxonomy of Program Implementation and Studies" (Benjamin Bellows, Ph.D., Associate with the Population Council's Reproductive Health Program in Nairobi, Kenya)</p>
Vouchers are an innovative strategy for governments seeking to expand access to family planning methods for individuals who, in the absence of supportive funding, would not likely be able to afford family planning services.
"Results from our research indicate that family planning vouchers can improve equity by effectively reaching poor populations who want but cannot afford their preferred method without a subsidy," said Ben Bellows, Ph.D., Associate, Population Council.
Oral Presentation: "The Effect of a Voucher Program on the Uptake of Long-Acting and Permanent Methods of Contraception in Kenya" (Ben Bellows, Associate, Population Council on behalf of Sam Wangila Wafula, lead author and former Bixby post-doctoral fellow at the Population Council, Kenya)
While long-acting and permanent methods (LAPMs) (e.g., intrauterine devices, implants, and sterilization) can help women avoid unintended pregnancies, existing research showed that only 8.3 percent of Kenyan women of reproductive age were using LAPMs by 2009. Though government health facilities widely offer short-term contraceptives, use of LAPMs is very low given high out-of-pocket costs and limited provider knowledge about insertion.
"Until now, there have been no controlled studies evaluating the effect of a voucher program on the uptake of LAPMs in Kenya," said Ben Bellows. "This study gives us new insights on the ability of a family planning voucher program to positively influence a woman's use of LAPMs in low-resource areas with high unmet needs."
Interventions to Promote Gender Equity
Oral Presentation: "Re-Invigorating Male Involvement in Family Planning: An Assessment in Southern Ghana" (Nsorma Gertrude Nyaaba, Program Officer for Research, Population Council Ghana)
New Council research evaluated men's attitudes toward family planning and demonstrated the positive impact of programs that strengthen gender equity.
"This study showed us that when men are engaged using methods such as joint counseling and interactions with male associations, uptake and support of family planning services increases," said Nsorma Gertrude Nyaaba, Program Officer for Research, Population Council. "Understanding the factors that help influence men's positive involvement will help us influence policies and programs that break down barriers and encourage greater adoption of voluntary family planning services."
|Contact: Sasha Gruber|