The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has identified family planning as one of the top 10 public health achievements of the 20th century. In the December 3, 1999, edition of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, CDC traces key social, legal and technological developments in family planning during the past 100 years. The report attributes the decline in average family size from 3.5 children in 1900 to two children today, as well as the reduction in maternal and early childhood mortality rates, to the advent of modern contraceptive methods and discusses the impact of publicly funded family planning efforts, which originated in the late 1960s and early 1970s, on rates of unintended pregnancy and abortion. "Access to high quality contraceptive services will continue to be an important factor in promoting healthy pregnancies and preventing unintended pregnancy in this country" and around the world, the report says, even as it notes that "marshaling public support for efforts [aimed at improving access to contraception and] the full array of reproductive health-care services remains a challenge."
On the heels of the CDC report, the Department of Health and Human Services on January 24 released its Healthy People 2010, which devotes an entire chapter to family planning. Part of the decennial Healthy People series, the document sets national goals and objectives designed to improve the public health in several key areas. In contrast to Healthy People 2000, which focused largely on adolescent pregnancy, Healthy People 2010 adopts the broader perspective that every pregnancy should be intended and emphasizes the relationship between birthspacing and maternal and child health. With adolescent pregnancy viewed within this context, the document continues to emphasize the need to reduce teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates through comprehensive, abstinence-based sexuality education programs. Other highlights of the chapter include new objectives designed to increase male involvement in pregnancy prevention and family planning; to improve insurance coverage of contraceptives; and to increase awareness and use of emergency contraceptives. In addition to the chapter on family planning, Healthy People 2010 has entire chapters devoted to STDs, to HIV and to maternal, infant and child health.