Publicly Funded Family Planning Yields Numerous Positive Health Outcomes While Saving Taxpayer Dollars

Three New Resources Make the Case for Investing in These Services

The nation’s public investment in family planning not only helps women and couples avoid unintended pregnancy and abortion, but also helps them avoid such negative health outcomes as cervical cancer, HIV and other STIs, infertility, and preterm and low-birth-weight births. In addition, this investment produces billions of dollars in government savings. Three new resources—a new policy analysis, a series of state fact sheets and a web tool—which draw on research published by the Guttmacher Institute earlier this fall, make clear the public health and fiscal benefits resulting from this investment.

In October, the Institute reported on the broad benefits of publicly funded family planning services in 2010—the most recent year for which comprehensive data are available—including the following:

  • Contraceptive care at publicly supported centers helped women avert 2.2 million unintended pregnancies, 1.1 million unplanned births, 761,000 abortions and 164,000 preterm or low-birth-weight births.
  • STI testing at publicly supported centers averted 99,000 chlamydia infections, 16,000 gonorrhea infections, 410 HIV infections, 1,100 ectopic pregnancies and 2,200 cases of infertility.
  • Pap and HPV testing and HPV vaccination at publicly supported centers prevented 3,700 cases of cervical cancer and 2,100 cervical cancer deaths.

In addition to these numerous improved health outcomes, this investment also resulted in net public savings of $13.6 billion, or $7.09 saved for every public dollar spent.

"Beyond Preventing Unplanned Pregnancy: The Broader Benefits of Publicly Funded Family Planning Services," by Guttmacher senior public policy associate Adam Sonfield, employs the Institute’s research and analysis to make the case to policymakers that public policy decisions must be based on sound scientific evidence. As the data clearly illustrate, the U.S. investment in family planning is a wise use of public funds. Congress and the President cannot afford to ignore the value of publicly funded family planning services to women, their families and society as they set their priorities for the next two years. These must include protecting the Title X national family planning program and the national network of safety-net family planning centers; encouraging all states to embrace the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion and otherwise protecting and expanding Medicaid and its coverage of family planning; and breaking down barriers that deny women and men access to coverage and care, such as restrictions related to immigration status.

"The evidence is unequivocal. Publicly funded family planning services yield numerous positive health outcomes while saving public dollars," says Sonfield. "It is crucial that government decisions about programs and policies that promote access to family planning services be based on sound scientific evidence, not on rhetoric or ideology."

The Institute has also launched a new series of state-by-state fact sheets drawing on the new research findings titled Facts on Publicly Funded Family Planning Services. These fact sheets present data for every state and the District of Columbia on the need for publicly funded family planning care, the services provided by safety-net family planning centers, including those funded by Title X, the wide range of health benefits accrued as a result of these services, and the costs and public savings associated with their provision. State-level policymakers, advocates and providers can turn to these fact sheets as one-stop shopping for key data and graphics on the importance of their state’s family planning program.

Additionally, the Institute has just launched a new web tool: Health Benefits and Cost Savings of Publicly Funded Family Planning. This tool enables family planning centers and other end users to estimate the impact of and cost-savings resulting from publicly funded family planning services in their state or service area, using specific program data entered by the user about the number of contraceptive clients served, the number of STI and cervical cancer screening tests performed and the state where services were provided. These estimates will be helpful to family planning providers looking to contract with Medicaid and private health plans, and for advocates and policymakers looking to defend and expand public investment in family planning services.

Previously released resources include detailed appendix tables with state-level data, and a pair of infographics depicting the impact of the entire U.S. publicly funded family planning effort and the impact of Title X–supported health centers specifically.

"Beyond Preventing Unplanned Pregnancy: The Broader Benefits of Publicly Funded Family Planning Services," by Adam Sonfield, appears in the Fall 2014 issue of the Guttmacher Policy Review.

The full analysis, "Return on Investment: A Fuller Assessment of the Benefits and Cost Savings of the US Publicly Funded Family Planning Program," by Jennifer J. Frost, Adam Sonfield, Mia R. Zolna and Lawrence B. Finer, is currently available online and appears in the December 2014 issue of The Milbank Quarterly.

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  • Rebecca Wind

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