Advancing Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights
International Family Planning Perspectives
Volume 27, Number 1, March 2001


International Family Planning Perspectives receives submissions concerning a broad range of topics and a multiplicity of countries. This issue of the journal is no exception, with articles addressing a variety of issues and every major region of the developing world. Yet beneath the surface, a truly contemporary theme--the flow of information--runs through many of the articles here.

For example, family ties are the glue that binds many rural communities together. Jenny Godley reports an analysis of kinship networks interpreting the impact of such ties on contraceptive use in Thailand. Use levels for the pill and the injectable are clearly elevated when women have more kinship ties, either within a household, within a village or outside a village. The latter relationship in particular implies that increased exposure to the outside world and to modern culture does a lot to encourage reliance on modern contraceptives.

More explicitly, Young Mi Kim and colleagues address the flow of information by reporting here on evaluation results for a wide-ranging multimedia information campaign intended to promote sexual responsibility among youths in Zimbabwe. Mass media components were combined with traditional elements (such as leaflets and posters) and special events (everything from musical and dramatic performances to drum majorettes and donkey parades)--all aimed at encouraging people to discuss the project's messages of saying no to sex. Youths exposed to the campaign subsequently proved more likely to have resisted offers to have sex and more likely to have visited a health center than were young people in outside areas.

John Ross and William Winfrey illustrate variations in the unmet need for contraception, but from an unusual perspective--that of women in the postpartum period. Information from 27 countries suggests that many women experience an unmet need for contraception in the year following a birth. Moreover, while such women often state a desire to practice contraception, substantially fewer actually do so. Given the sizable proportions of postpartum women who come into contact with health care providers--during prenatal visits, at delivery and when seeking infant care and other services--the authors argue that concerted efforts to make contraceptive information and services available at these times might substantially reduce unintended pregnancy.

Federico León and coauthors relate the findings of an investigation into what kinds of information family planning providers offer to their clients, and how much time it takes for them to communicate it. When trained observers pretending to be clients visited 19 urban clinics in Peru, they found that providers often failed to tell them important facts that they needed to know, while relating much information that was of no practical use. Interestingly, clinic sessions lasting longer than 15 minutes did not necessarily yield more useful information; instead, providers often used the additional time to tell the women more things they did not need to know. Thus, information should flow both ways during a clinic session: Instead of simply having the provider impart information to the client, the provider and client need to exchange information, so the provider better understands the client's needs and desires.

Two research notes published here explore issues involving the provision of very different services: clandestine abortion and family planning. In the former, Jennifer Strickler and colleagues profile the clients of an abortion provider in an unnamed Latin American city. They find that young, unmarried and highly educated women predominate among the abortion clients--a very different impression than what is often left by studies of women seeking hospital treatment of abortion complications. In the latter, John Stanback and K.A. Twum-Baah study facilities in Ghana where providers try to inhibit some groups of women from obtaining services [page 37]. They find that many proceed from the best of intentions, mistakenly believing that they are helping to improve society's morals or are protecting women from potential health problems.

Finally, Thomas Schindlmayr proposes that population assistance, public opinion and the mass media interact in a continuing cycle. The amount of funding made available by the U.S. government for population-related activities, he argues, is tied to a process in which media messages about population problems drive popular perceptions of those problems. These perceptions, in turn, can affect how strongly population-related funding is supported--at least when the public's views gather enough media attention to be communicated to policy-makers.

We also take an opportunity in this issue to communicate our appreciation for two special groups of scholars and experts to whom we owe much. The back cover of this issue lists the members of our newly revamped Editorial Advisory Committee. We look forward to working with them to refine and improve International Family Planning Perspectives. We also express our deep thanks to the outgoing members of the committee, who advised and assisted us over the course of many years. Additionally, on page 19, we name and thank the individuals who served as anonymous peer reviewers during 2000. Submissions to International Family Planning Perspectives last year were more numerous than ever before, and we are grateful for the reviewers' efforts to ensure that the articles we publish are scientifically valid and of practical significance.

--The Editors