Family Planning in India: A Historical View of the Church's Role Print {sharethis label=}

Highlights of an interview by Christian Connections for International Health with Dr. Vijay Aruldas, General Secretary, Christian Medical Association of India (CMAI)

CCIH: Would you review briefly for us the history of family planning in India?

Dr. Vijay: Family planning became a big effort in India in the 1960s and 1970s. It was widely publicized with posters and public discussion. It suffered some setbacks during the 1970s with the sterilization controversy. But now family planning is an accepted and routine concept in India. Formerly the national slogan was, “We are two. We have two.” Currently the national campaign says, “We are two. We have one.” The emphasis has moved from family planning to reproductive health and from this to better overall health for women, not just reproductive health. This is a change that benefits women. At the same time, other diseases (having the support of strong international organizations) are now in the spotlight. The result of these changes is that family planning is receiving less attention.

CCIH: So what is the role of the churches nowadays? 

Dr. Vijay: Churches are significant providers of health care. Historically, many were set up as hospitals for women. In some hospitals, three generations of some families have been born there. Maternal care is still a strong component of the services of most mission hospitals. Of course, the hospitals have taken up other roles, and have pioneered in many areas of need such as HIV and AIDS and Palliative care.

CCIH:  We have also been interviewing African church health networks. In Africa nowadays, the church hospitals often look to outside donors to help them provide family planning services.

Dr. Vijay: In India, it is different. Most international church-related donors are interested in advocacy in India, not in supporting provision of care and services. So, the provision of family planning services by the church hospitals is from the resources they raise, and sometimes there is assistance from the government. 

CCIH: Do you have any advice or “lessons learned” for your counterparts in church health networks in Africa?

Dr. Vijay:    

• Be sure always to speak to the government and to donors from a position of strength. By that, I mean we should be sure that we are providing services in a way that is consistent with our philosophy. If our own activities are weak, we cannot advise or say, “What should happen is …..”

• Discuss issues from your first-hand experience and your knowledge of local situations and problems.

• Be ready to suggest what the next step should be.

• In family planning, changes are often required to respond to changing needs and perceptions – and that is good!

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 09 October 2012 18:13 )