MANILA, Philippines—The government has started implementing a new family planning
marketing strategy designed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
The “May Plano Ako” program, conceptualized by the USAID’s Health
Promotion and Communication Project, or HealthPRO, is in line with the
country’s Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs, especially those on
population control and reproductive health.
May Plano Ako “targets not only women but also men and young people” on the importance of family planning and contraceptive use, according to a top official of the Department of Health (DoH).
Unlike previous family planning initiatives of the DoH, which were
“sporadic and small-scale,” the new program will be “unified, national
and comprehensive,” according to USAID and DoH program materials
furnished the Inquirer.
The US Embassy in Manila has acknowledged Washington’s active role in the Philippine government’s family planning initiatives.
In a text message, Wossie Mazengia, the US Embassy deputy
spokesperson, told the Inquirer that the USAID “continues to work in
partnership with the DoH, local governments and the private sector to
increase access to and improve the quality of basic health services,
including family planning.”
Training of nurses
HealthPRO and the DoH-attached National Center for Health Promotion
(NCHP) have so far trained 607 nurses and midwives and 2,217 barangay
(village) health workers in 11 pilot provinces on “interpersonal
communication and counseling on family planning, and maternal and child
The provinces are Bulacan, Negros Oriental, Negros Occidental,
Sarangani, South Cotabato, Zamboanga del Sur, Compostela Valley, Albay,
Pangasinan, Capiz and Davao del Sur.
HealthPRO and NCHP are set to train another 700 health service
providers and 3,000 barangay health workers in 12 other provinces:
Cagayan, Isabela, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Aklan, Bohol, Bukidnon, Misamis
Oriental, Misamis Occidental, Agusan del Norte, Zamboanga del Norte and
The two groups plan to use “strategic communication to enhance
family planning and maintain behavior change among targeted market
segments in the Philippines.”
May Plano Ako, finalized in June, has the “full support” of Health Secretary Enrique Ona, said Dr. Ivanhoe Escartin, NCHP head.
Ona is scheduled to lead the launching of the program on Aug. 31 in
Legazpi City while Undersecretary David Lozada and Assistant Secretary
Nemesio Gaco are expected to grace similar activities in San Fernando,
La Union, and Bacolod City, respectively.
In a 37-page report, titled “Family Planning Behavior Change
Communication Strategy,” the NCHP said: “The strategy builds on the
understanding that encouraging individuals or couples to use family
planning is a process, involving distinct audiences that need different
messages and approaches.”
“Information alone is not enough to bring about behavior change
among any audience. Instead, the strategy is based on a multilevel,
synchronized and holistic marketing approach to family planning.”
The same report said “the approach is unique in that it focuses on
increasing modern contraceptive use through demand generation, or
increasing knowledge and forming positive attitudes toward
contraceptive use and birth spacing; social marketing, or repackaging
or selling the concept of family planning as a lifestyle that
contributes to better quality of life; and service marketing, or
building capacity of family-planning service providers and promoting
The report also noted that previous family planning approaches of
the DoH had “resulted in lost opportunities to involve men and young
people and address values that may actually drive contraceptive use.”
Citing data from the National Demographic and Health Survey and the Commission on Population, among others, the NCHP said that:
Many poor Filipino women are having more children than they want.
“Currently, the total number of children a Filipino woman has during
her reproductive years is one child higher than the desired number, or
3.3 vs. 2.4. For the poorest women, it is two children (5.2) higher
than the desired number.”
A large proportion of married women, especially those with more than
two children want no more kids, yet contraceptive use is low.
“More than half (54 percent) of married women in the Philippines
want no more children. The proportion of women who no longer want
additional children increases with the number of living children.”
“However, contraceptive use is low and has remained fairly stagnant
over the last five years. Only one out of three married women is using
a family planning method and only one out of three is using a modern
Adolescents, those aged 15 to 19, have the “highest unmet need for family planning.”
The DoH defines “unmet need” as “the percentage of married women who
either want to stop having children or want to wait for their next
birth but are not using any family planning method.”
More than one in five pregnancies
in the country are either mistimed or unwanted.
Worse, “many women obtain an abortion when they discover an unplanned pregnancy.”
“About one in five pregnancies in the Philippines end up in illegal
abortions, mostly in unsafe conditions that can lead to maternal
In a May Plano Ako briefing paper, HealthPRO said “many Filipinos believe having a plan is good for their families.”
“They not only want their government to help them plan their
families. They also have to get the information and services they need
to help them plan their families,” HealthPRO also said.
Aside from HealthPRO, USAID’s other health-related projects in the
country include SHIELD, short for Sustainable Health Improvement
Through Empowerment and Local Development; Health Policy
Development Program (HPDP); Private Sector Mobilization for Family
Health (PRISM); and Strengthening Local Governance for Health
These projects are part of the US government’s “Country Assistance Strategy for the Philippines” from 2009 to 2013.
P4.46B in USAID projects
Last year, the USAID allocated $96.04 million (about P4.46 billion) to its projects in the Philippines.
Nearly $27 million (about P1.25 billion) of the budget was spent on
health-related projects like the drive against HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis
and other infectious diseases.
In June, then Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral cited the USAID as a DoH partner in the state’s family planning campaign.
Earlier in an interview, Cabral told the Inquirer that the
government’s family planning program had “not been as successful as we
want it to be.”
“Even as population growth is coming down, it is not coming down at
the rate necessary to improve the country’s socioeconomic status,” she
Target growth rate
Cabral said the state needed to “bring it down (from 2.04 percent in
2008) to a level of 1.3 to 1.4 percent per annum where the population
In a report on the Philippines, the UN Millennium Campaign (on the
MDGs) said “the country’s high population growth is diluting the gains
of economic growth.”
“The larger the population a country has, the greater will be the
pressure on basic social services and on natural resources,” it said.
Here, “more than one million babies
are born every year. They will be needing resources in the future, such as health care, schooling, food, clothing and later on, employment. Even today, these needs are not being met,” the report added.
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