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ANNUAL REVIEW OF PUBLIC HEALTH. 1996; 17:359-82.This overview describes current growth in the population of the world as well as the momentum which keeps populations expanding even after fertility rates decline. This background information precedes a discussion of the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) which includes the preparatory activities, the position of the ICPD in the context of previous decennial population conferences, major innovations included in the Program of Action, and the process used to reach consensus. The following six major reproductive health concerns which arose from the ICPD are then considered: gender inequality; access to contraceptive services; sexually transmitted disease (including HIV/AIDS) prevalence, health effects, and programmatic effects; maternal mortality; unsafe abortion; and adolescent pregnancy. It is concluded that the ICPD was of enormous significance because it managed to gain consensus on some of the most controversial topics in the area of reproductive health and to mirror some of the most pressing population problems of the decade. The major drawback of the Program of Action is seen as the fact that its success will depend upon the political and financial will of governments.