Reproductive Health and Human Rights: The Way Forward

By Laura Reichenbach; Mindy Jane Roseman | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
The Conundrum of Population and
Reproductive Health Programs in
the Early Twenty-First Century

George Zeidenstein

The title of this volume does not include the word population. Yet reproductive health programming originated in the international development field of population policies and programs, as I explain. But, for reasons discussed below, reproductive health programs are now largely severed from their original base in population policies and programs. The unfilled gap presents the conundrum referred to in the title of this chapter. The chapter is intended to explain the conundrum and advance some suggestions about resolving it.

The concept of reproductive health programs was first articulated at the 1994 ICPD conference in Cairo. The programs were conceived and articulated as population activities: they were described as absorbing and integrating what had formerly been vertical family planning programs within a broader array of reproductive health services that would be more responsive and broadly useful to clients.

But since the 1994 conference international concerns about population policy have waned, along with diminished fertility in most countries. What, then, about the creatures of those population policy concerns, reproductive health programs? Somehow or other, without discussion of where things came from and how they are affected by their antecedents, reproductive health programs seem to me to be understood nowadays by most professionals as having become pure public health activities, planned, operated, and evaluated as if they have nothing to do with population dynamics. Well, one may ask, is there anything wrong with that? Are not public health activities worthy in and of themselves? Is not achievement of improved public health goals justification enough? These are fair questions, and I believe the answers to them are

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