I have contributed in odd and diverse ways to the field of family planning. I started my career in FP working for an NGO that produced radio soap operas in Ethiopia and Mali about the benefits of FP and small families. I registered voters (while simultaneously clarifying the difference between abortion and contraception) in trailer park communities as a volunteer for Planned Parenthood. I have conducted research in Mali, DRC, and Zambia on barriers to FP uptake, specifically why women who want fewer babies do not use contraception. Currently, I work at MSH to ensure health systems address FP in holistic and sustainable manners, especially for young people. Underlying all these efforts is my core belief that evidence should drive FP policies and programs.
I took an extremely popular class titled "Global Problems of Population Growth" my last semester in college. Also known as "Monkey Sex," what was simply a way to take a fun class with friends auspiciously changed the trajectory of my life. I learned how high fertility and rapid population growth negatively affect health, economic growth, social cohesion, and the environment. I also learned of the high levels of undesired pregnancies and demand for contraception. The solution? Family planning!
The most frustrating challenge I've faced is meeting people (both inside & outside the FP community) who have an 'us vs. them' mentality and shy away from productive dialogue with those that hold differing views. I try to overcome this by actively listening to those who disagree with my views on FP and present my thoughts in a non-threatening manner. Although they may never agree with me, I hope that the respect I show is returned in kind and that I have sparked a new way of thinking about FP.
The biggest challenge in the U.S. is also a challenge in many other countries: Not enough women know when they are fertile! Basic knowledge of one's menstrual cycle and when one is most likely to get pregnant (in between periods) is something that every woman (and man!) should have. An interesting way to increase awareness would be to put the facts where there is a ready captive audience - on boxes of tampons and menstrual pads!
In five years, I hope to have contributed in a tangible way to motivating women who wish to limit/space births to use FP. Specifically, I would like to focus on the subpopulation of women who have tried to use a FP method and failed. In my opinion, they are "low-hanging fruit" and I would like to identify and scale up strategies to ensure their FP needs are met.