“We are one human race living on one planet. We aspire for the same things, food, water, good health and most of all dignity and loving relationships. We yearn for opportunity, voice and resources to develop our potential. We want to raise our children in a safe and healthy environment. We want to experience the Earth’s beauty and natural bounty.” Musimbi Kanyoro, Global Fund for Women
Population activists know that the health of the oceans, the air, the water, and the land directly affects human health. The size of the human family and the way that we live influence the quality of life for people today as well as for future generations. The size of our population and our behaviors also profoundly affect nonhuman species — all of the amazing creatures with which we share this beautiful but finite planet. The web of life that those species create is what makes the planet habitable, lovely, and healthy.
Human-health is a basic human right. Everyone deserves to understand, control, and nourish their body. Two of the most important human health issues that are connected to population are family planning and reproductive health.
Family planning is one of the greatest public health achievements in human history. The availability of family planning services allows individuals to achieve desired birth spacing and family size, and contributes to improved health outcomes for infants, children, women, and families. Unfortunately, this amazing tool is not available to all who want to take advantage of it. There is an estimated 225 million women worldwide who want to use safe and effective family planning methods, but are unable to do so because they lack access to information and services or the support of their husbands and communities. As many as 50 percent of pregnancies are unplanned around the world, and 25 percent are unwanted. This is neither healthy nor sustainable.
Reproductive health is also an essential element of men and women’s overall health. It allows people to have a safe and satisfying sex life. Included in reproductive health is correct information, understanding, and access to information about sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, contraception, and childbearing. Men and women should be able to protect themselves and their families, making responsible and informed choices about sexual partners and choosing if and when to have children. Unfortunately, lack of reproductive health remains the leading cause of health problems and deaths among women of reproductive ages.
Good population advocacy must include strong support for unrestricted access to family planning information and services, and should also include support for improving the reproductive health of all people. In the final analysis, good human health is essential for good environmental health. This is crucial, because in most discussions about human health, the health of nature is often an afterthought. Far too often it is overlooked entirely. We convinced ourselves that the well-being of people is somehow distinct from the well-being of the planet. It is not. Some even see the Earth’s environment as being in “competition” with humans. The obvious truth, as shocking as it may be to some, is that we are not separate or distinct from nature. Our hopes and our fate are inextricably linked to the fate of the natural world. We are part of a complex web of interdependent life, and our very lives and welfare depend upon the health of the whole.
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