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Acting Executive Director of the National Family Planning Board (NFPB), Dr. Sharlene Jarrett, says there has been a significant decline in the country’s fertility rate, due in part to the agency’s efforts to ensure that all Jamaicans have adequate access to family planning services.

Citing the 2008 reproductive health survey conducted by the Board, Dr. Jarrett pointed out that in the early 1970s, “we averaged 4.5 children born to women between ages 15 and 49 and we see where in 2008, it was 2.4 and this is just a little above the ideal replacement level."

The Acting Executive Director was speaking at the launch of the 2012 State of the World Population Report, at the Comprehensive Clinic in Kingston on November 14.

Noting that the reduction in the birth rate is a major accomplishment for Jamaica, Dr. Jarrett contended that “some of this success is due to the availability of services that the Family Planning Board has been able to co-ordinate."

According to the survey, women said they had access to family planning services at Government clinics, with 41 per cent saying they could access family planning services at any (of them).

Dr. Jarrett said the decline also directly resulted from the decrease in adolescent birth rates, which was 137 per 1,000 in 1975, and was almost halved to 72 per 1,000 in 2008.

“The decline in the fertility rate was primarily influenced by the younger age group. We are seeing a significant decline in the rate in the youngest age group. Between 1983 and 2008, the fertility rate declined by 41 per cent in the 15 to 19 year olds; for 20 to 24, we saw a 35 per cent decline; and for 25 to 29 we saw a 39 per cent decline,” she noted.

Turning to other findings, Dr. Jarrett revealed that contraceptive use by women in unions has increased significantly over the years, moving from 66 per cent of women in 1997 to 72 per cent in 2008. She noted as well, that an increase has been seen in the number and types and contraceptives that are being used; one in two pregnancies are now planned; and Jamaica has a low average adult population.

The Acting Executive Director said that despite the achievements, the Board is still grappling with a number of challenges, including the fact that family planning is primarily linked to females, where it is seen as a female issue and not a concern for males.

Dr. Jarrett said the agency is working to find ways of reaching the males with the message of family planning and reminding them of the important role they play in this process.

Titled: ‘By Choice, Not By Chance. Family Planning, Human Rights and Development’, the report, which was launched in Jamaica by the Planning Institute of Jamaica in collaboration with the NFPB and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPB), explains why family planning is a fundamental human right.

It examines the challenges inensuring that all women, men and young people are able to exercise that right and suggests actions that governments and international organisations can take to give everyone the power and the means to decide freely and responsibly how many children to have and when to have them.