By APEC Health Working Group
SINGAPORE – To prevent the long-term economic challenges posed by demographic change, APEC members through the Health Working Group, are introducing a set of policy recommendations that can assist economies in their effort to create an enabling environment for reproductive health decision-making.
These policy recommendations are in response to the long-term, negative economic challenges posed by demographic trends faced by most APEC member economies that include falling fertility rates, which directly impact dependency ratios and economic security, and higher unintended pregnancy rates, which directly impact women’s economic participation.
“Historically, efforts to expand access to family planning resources and services in APEC economies have had limited impact because they have largely been responsive to a single problem,” said Dr Narong Aphikulvanich, chair of the APEC Health Working Group.
“Understanding the inextricable link between demographics and economics, we have to look at this issue with a holistic lens and join forces with the private sector to bring new approaches to the table that will help address barriers from multiple angles to drive real, lasting change,” added Dr Aphikulvanich.
The publication, “APEC Smart Families Menu of Policy Options for Demographic Resilience,” part of the APEC Smart Families initiative launched last year, is designed around three pillars: 1) reproductive health & health literacy; 2) labor and economics; and 3) funding & financing mechanisms. It identifies barriers in each pillar and lays out policy recommendations with real examples for implementing policy from across the region.
“While many of the recommendations listed in the menu of policy options could be implemented in isolation, creating an enabling environment requires a multi-pronged approach that addresses barriers from multiple angles,” Dr Aphikulvanich said.
The menu of policy options highlights the need for data collection as it has a critical role in identifying the reason behind falling birth rates or persistent rates of unintended pregnancy, as well as in measuring the extent to which policies are effective.
It also emphasizes the tangible economic impacts when individuals and families have the tools to make the best reproductive decisions for themselves. As such, the menu of policy options is structured around a framework of demographic resilience; an approach to create an enabling environment that brings together family planning and fertility planning while at the same time maximizing economic opportunities.
“Our goal should be to create policies and an environment that respond to women’s desire for safe, affordable family planning services and provide the support they need to raise and educate their children, unleashing their economic earning power”, said Dr Leslie Mancuso, president and CEO of Jhpiego, a global health non-profit and partner of the initiative.
“Fundamental to achieving our shared vision of thriving families is our collective power to drive change, strengthen health care for all and create the conditions that advance economic prosperity across the region,” Dr Mancuso explained.
“No single stakeholder can solve these demographic and economic barriers alone,” said Kevin Ali, CEO of Organon, a global healthcare company with a focus on women’s health and the private sector partner of the initiative.
“That’s why public-private partnerships and cross-sector collaboration is crucial in finding new approaches to help address these issues. We are proud to bring our expertise to the table, identifying sustainable solutions that empower women and help to eliminate barriers to family planning and fertility planning, so that women can achieve their full promise.”
The next phase of APEC Smart Families initiative will aim to convene several virtual workshops of policymakers and a multi-stakeholder expert group to identify innovative health financing mechanisms for sustainably implementing the menu of policy options.