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Public Health Institute Hosts Family Planning and Reproductive Health Convening

January 31, 2017 | Susanna Moore, Deputy Chair of IBP, Esther Tahrir, Chair of IBP, and Amy Max

“Now more than ever, we need to use advocacy to close the gap between knowledge & practice in family planning and sexual and reproductive health and rights.” --Mary Pittman, President and CEO of PHI


As current chair of the Implementing Best Practices Initiative (IBP), PHI hosted over 100 global leaders in family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) at the Semiannual IBP Consortium Meeting, held on the U.S. West Coast for the first time. Attendees at the January meeting represented many of the 45+ IBP Consortium member organizations, along with FP/RH allies, local partners and members of the donor community. The meeting theme “Advocacy for Global FP/RH Scale-up” centered on the use of advocacy to scale up global family planning and reproductive health, offering resources and inspiration to help close the gap between knowledge and practice.


PHI worked with the IBP Secretariat, housed at the World Health Organization’s Department of Reproductive Health and Research (WHO/RHR), as well as USAID and UNFPA to plan the meeting held on January 17 and 18 at Preservation Park, Oakland, CA. Conference highlights were shared on twitter at #IBPAdvocacy.


Representing PHI as IBP Chair, Esther Tahrir acted as moderator for the meeting, which began with a welcome from PHI’s CEO Mary Pittman, followed by the Director of WHO/RHR James Kiarie, PHI Board Member Claire Brindis of UCSF, and Suzanne Ehlers, executive director of PAI. Ehlers contextualized the opening remarks and meeting theme in the current political context, calling on all members of the FP/RH community to intensify and unify [their] advocacy efforts to ensure that, in the face of imminent political challenges, reproductive health and rights are upheld here at home and around the globe. She reminded attendees that, now more than ever we each need to be advocates and strengthen our resiliency by framing FP/RH within advocacy for broader development goals.


In a high-level presentation, WHO/RHR leaders, who serve as the IBP Secretariat,  spoke about IBP’s three strategic objectives from the 2016-2020 Strategic Plan and IBP’s inherent advantages to achieve those objectives: global membership of experienced partners in a neutral platform, and linkages with scientists and implementers.


PHI’s FP/RH programs  were represented at the event, with presenters and participants, including: GOJoven International, Rise Up, CAMI Health as IMPT Secretariat, Global Health Fellows Program (GHFP II), California Adolescent Health Collaborative (CAHC) and FP/SRH/MCH researcher Sue Holtby.


GOJoven International and Rise Up were featured on the opening panel moderated by Summit Foundation on successful experiences engaging women, youth, and girls as advocates for FP/RH scale-up. Key ingredients for success included: enabling stakeholders to identify their own needs and priorities, demystifying advocacy, and building their capacity to advocate for and lead these priorities. CAMI Health/IMPT spoke during the opening panel on the second day, focusing on their lessons learned and recommendations from advocacy for new FP/RH technologies, specifically multipurpose prevention technologies (MPTs).


Participants shared innovative ideas about solving new and ongoing domestic and global FP/RH challenges—financial, planning, political and cultural. The strategic location of this meeting also allowed IBP to directly engage west coast donors in the dialogue around these pressing issues. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Packard Foundation, and Seattle International Foundation joined UNFPA, USAID, and WestWind Foundation in a donor talk show that highlighted FP/RH-related funding trends and priorities.. Donors highlighted the importance of advocacy work in achieving FP/RH wins at the country level. They discussed how  advocacy is used to create an enabling environment whichprovides enough resources to expand access, use and quality of family planning and thereby contributes to sustainability and scale-up.


The active participation of west coast IBP member organizations, including PHI, PATH, Hesperian Health Guides, and UCB Bixby Center, and other key allies/stakeholders located in the San Francisco Bay Area was reflected in the focus on new technologies –mobile and medical– as well as the use of other innovations, such as user-centered or human-centered design (HCD) as applied to FP/RH. Sessions included Digital Health Innovations Roundtables and an HCD Ideas Lab & Workshop, the latter being led by YTH, YLabs and IDEO.org. Local partners also shared successful scale-up experiences in their work with diverse U.S. populations and discussed domestic-global linkages and cross-pollination based on lessons learned and best practices at home and abroad.


Participants exchanged information on advances in FP/RH research and technologies and best practices in program implementation and scale-up around the world. Participants recognized and embraced the need for collective advocacy to ensure that women, men and adolescents gain increased access to high quality FP/RH services, technologies and education.


As PHI CEO Mary Pittman stated, “We have some of the brightest and most committed minds in the fields of family planning, reproductive health and rights, gender equity and youth empowerment in the room, representing the key international FP/RH organizations. Over the next few years we will need each other for personal and professional support, to strategize and to advocate. There will be injustice but also victories that we should savor and support. NOW is not the time for organizational competition, NOW is the time to hang together and take care of each other. The path forward is the path together.”


IBP is a uniquely interactive partnership of over 45 organizations, WHO, UNFPA and USAID through which policy makers, program managers, implementing organizations and providers work together to identify and apply evidence-based and proven effective practices to improve family planning/reproductive health outcomes worldwide. You can learn more about the IBP Initiative and its partners’ work in FP/RH worldwide at ibpinitiative.org or join the IBP’s Knowledge Gateway to become more involved in its many communities of practice.