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  1. 1

    A reassessment of the concept of reproductive risk in maternity care and family planning services. Proceedings of a seminar presented under the Population Council's Robert H. Ebert Program on Critical Issues in Reproductive Health and Population, February 12-13, 1990, the Population Council, New York, New York.

    Rooks J; Winikoff B

    New York, New York, Population Council, 1990. x, 185 p.

    Conference proceedings on reassessing the concept of reproductive risk in maternity care and family planning (FP) services cover the following topics: assessment of the history of the concept of reproductive risk, the epidemiology of screening, the implementation of the risk approach in maternity care in Western countries and in poorer countries and in FP, the possible effects on the health care system, costs, and risk benefit calculations. Other risk approaches and ethical considerations are discussed. The conclusions pertain to costs and allocation of resources, information and outreach, objectives, predictive ability, and risk assessment in FP. Recommendations are made. Appendixes include a discussion of issues involved in developing a reproductive risk assessment instrument and scoring system, and the WHO risk approach in maternal and child health and FP. The results show that the application of risk assessment warrants caution and usefulness in service delivery is questionable. The weaknesses and negative effects need further investigation. Risk-based systems tend toward skewed resource allocation. Equal access to care, freedom of choice, and personal autonomy are jeopardized. Risk assessment can accurately predict for a group, but not for individuals. Risk assessment cannot be refined as it is an instrument directed toward probabilities. The risk approach must be evaluated within a functioning health care system. Screening has been important in developed countries, but integration into developing country health care systems may be appropriate only when basic health care is in place and in urban and periurban communities. Recommendations are 1) to prevent problems and detect rather than predict actual complications when no effective maternity care is available; to provide effective care to all women, not just those at high risk; and to provide transportation to adequate facilities for women with complications. 2) All persons attending births should be trained to handle emergencies. 3) Risk assessment has no value unless basic reproductive health services are in place. Cost benefit analysis precludes implementation. Alternative strategies are available to increase contact of women with the health care system, to improve public education strategies, to improve the quality of traditional birth attendants, and to improve the quality of existing services. Women's ideas about what is "risk" and the cost and benefits of a risk-based system to women needs to be solicited. All bad outcomes are not preventable. Copies of this document can be obtained from The Population Council, One Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, NY, NY 10017. Tel: (212) 339-0625, e-mail
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  2. 2

    The Billings method of family planning: an assessment.

    Betts K

    Studies in Family Planning. 1984 Nov-Dec; 15(6/1):253-66.

    This paper critically analyzes claims for the effectiveness of the Billings method of natural family planning and raises questions about the wisdom of actively promoting this method. The Billings method, developed in Australia, is based on client interpretation of changing patterns of cervical mucus secretion. Evaluation of the method's use-effectiveness has been hindered by its supporters' insistence on distinguishing between method and user failures and by the unreliability of data on sexual activities. However, the findings in 5 large studies aimed at investigating the biological basis of the Billings method provide little support for the claims that most fertile women always experience mucus symptoms, that these symptoms precede ovulation by at least 5 days, and that a peak symptom coincides with the day of ovulation. Although many women do experience a changing pattern of mucus symptoms, these changes do not mark the fertile period with sufficient reliability to form the basis for a fully effective method of fertility control. In addition, the results of 5 major field trials indicate that the Billings method has a biological failure rate even higher than the symptothermal method. Pearl pregnancy rates ranged from 22.2-37.2/100 woman-years, and high discontinuation rates in both developed and developing countries were found. Demand for the method was low even in developing countries where calendar rhythm and withdrawal are relatively popular methods of fertility control, suggesting that women of low socioeconomic status may prefer a method that does not require demanding interaction with service providers and acknowledgment of sexual activity. The Billings method is labor-intensive, requiring repeated client contact over an extended time period and high administrative costs, even when teachers are volunteers. It is concluded that although natural family planning methods may make a useful contribution where more effective methods are unavailable or unacceptable, many of the claims made for the Billings method are unsubstantiated by scientific evidence.
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  3. 3

    Report on developments and activities related to population information during the decade since the convening of the World Population Conference, Bucharest, 1974.

    Hankinson R

    New York, United Nations, 1984 Jun. vi, 52 p. (POPIN Bulletin No. 5 ISEA/POPIN/5)

    A summary of developments in the population information field during the decade 1974-84 is presented. Progress has been made in improving population services that are available to world users. "Population Index" and direct access to computerized on-line services and POPLINE printouts are available in the US and 13 other countries through a cooperating network of institutions. POPLINE services are also available free of charge to requestors from developing countries. Regional Bibliographic efforts are DOCPAL for Latin America. PIDSA for Africa, ADOPT and EBIS/PROFILE. Much of the funding and support for population information activities comes from 4 major sources: 1) UN Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA): 2) US Agency for International Development (USAID); 3) International Development Research Centre (IRDC): and 4) the Government of Australia. There are important philosophical distinctions in the support provided by these sources. Duplication of effort is to be avoided. Many agencies need to develop an institutional memory. They are creating computerized data bases on funded projects. The creation of these data bases is a major priority for regional population information services that serve developing countries. Costs of developing these information services are prohibitive; however, it is important to see them in their proper perspective. Many governments are reluctant to commit funds for these activites. Common standards should be adopted for population information. Knowledge and use of available services should be increased. The importance os back-up services is apparent. Hard-copy reproductions of items in data bases should be included. This report is primarily descriptive rather than evaluative. However, given the increase in population distribution and changes in government attitudes over the importance of population matters, the main tasks for the next decade should be to build on these foundations; to insure effective and efficient use of services; to share experience and knowledge through POPIN and other networks; and to demonstrate to governments the valuable role of information programs in developing national population programs.
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