(March 2009) Family planning is a lifesaver for millions of women and children in developing countries according to a new report by the Population Reference Bureau. Family Planning Saves Lives, now in its fourth edition, has provided valuable information to policymakers, program planners, and journalists over the years on the health benefits of family planning. While the message has not changed, this new edition presents updated findings on the crucial role of family planning in improving the health of women, children, and adolescents around the world.

To better address the cost implications of investing in mothers and children, the report provides useful data on the cost-benefits of family planning programs. Long considered a “best buy” among health investments, family planning is even more important in today’s financially strapped environment. As countries grapple with recession and search for better ways to stretch limited budgets, family planning stands out as one of the most cost-effective, high-yield interventions available. At an average supply cost of US$1.55 per user annually, it offers a safe, affordable, and effective way for governments to reduce maternal and child illness and deaths, as well as reduce national health expenditures on reproductive and children’s health problems.

This latest edition also includes new information on how family planning reduces the rate of new HIV infections and deaths from AIDS as well as a “Special Focus” section on the challenges of repositioning family planning in sub-Saharan Africa, where programs have languished in many countries over the last decade.

Rhonda Smith is the lead author of Family Planning Saves Lives and is the associate vice president of International Programs at the Population Reference Bureau. In this audio interview, she discusses how global reproductive health has changed since the last edition in 1997, the challenges of funding, family planning, and PRB’s role in supporting family planning programs.

Eric Zuehlke is an editor at the Population Reference Bureau. Rhonda Smith is associate vice president, International Programs, at the Population Reference Bureau.