Health Dept Launches “Smart Families Menu of Policy Options"

Health Dept Launches “Smart Families Menu of Policy Options"

In the collaborative effort with Organon and other agencies to address demographic trends associated with falling birth rates and unintended pregnancies in Asia Pacific

Bangkok, 29 November 2023 – The Department of Health under Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health in collaboration with Organon, a pharmaceutical company focusing on women’s health, Jhpiego (a global health nonprofit affiliated with Johns Hopkins University), C&M International, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Health Working Group, recently launched the APEC Smart Families Menu of Policy Options for Demographic Resilience, in an effort to address the demographic trends associated with falling birth rates and unintended pregnancy, a common concern faced by many economies across the Asia Pacific.

The APEC Smart Families initiative launched during the 2022 APEC Health Week Policy Dialogue hosted in Bangkok last year and the recently published Menu of Policy Options provides recommendations that can assist economies in their effort to create a holistic, enabling environment for reproductive health decision-making and economic prosperity.

Dr. Bunyarit Sukrat, Director of Bureau of Reproductive Health, Department of Health, Ministry of Public Health said: “17 of the 21 APEC economies are faced with falling birth rates – many of which are below replacement fertility. Others face persistent high rates of unintended pregnancy. Many are confronted with both. Like many APEC economies, Thailand must grapple with the socioeconomic impacts of ageing populations. Our fertility rate has been below replacement rate since 1995, while unintended pregnancies, particularly for adolescent girls, remain a priority for policymakers. Thailand is committed to exploring how to best support women in their reproductive health journeys. As Project Overseer for APEC Smart Families, I would like to express our deepest gratitude to all participants who shared best practices and learned from each other to improve health outcomes, advance sexual and reproductive health and rights, and empower women and girls so they can realize their full potential.”

Mr. Koen C. Kruijtbosch, Managing Director of Organon Thailand, said: “As the lead private sector partner since Smart Families launched in 2022, we are thrilled to see the APEC Smart Families Menu of Policy Options for Demographic Resilience endorsed and published and would like to use this occasion to congratulate APEC and other members of the Expert Working Group on this success. The multi-sectoral Expert Working Group worked tirelessly together to develop a comprehensive set of holistic policy options which can now be used to strengthen APEC economies' capacity to address demographic trends, particularly low birth rates and unintended pregnancies, which can have significant economic and social impact. We hope that this Menu of Policy Options will be a useful tool for all policymakers in APEC to help them find appropriate solutions to address these related challenges.”

“Apart from this, our CEO Kevin Ali also participated in the APEC CEO Summit on 14-16 November to explore how the private sector can build resilience and foster economic inclusion, reflecting our strong commitment to bring a better and healthier future to women to help unleash women’s economic potential. At the Summit, Mr. Ali also met Thailand Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin and discussed Thailand’s low birth rate as a national agenda by unlocking access to fertility treatments and building awareness of Smart Families.” Mr. Kruijtbosch added.

The APEC Smart Families Menu of Policy Options for Demographic Resilience offers policy options inclusive of both family planning and fertility planning which are organized in three sections: Reproductive Health and Health Literacy, Labor and Economics, and Funding and Financing Mechanisms. In each section, the policy options are organized into an identified barrier to a healthy enabling environment, proposed policy interventions, and relevant implementing entities. Where possible, the policy recommendations are also grounded in existing examples of policies from within the APEC region or other parts of the globe.

The Reproductive Health and Health Literacy section focuses on policies to create an enabling environment for reproductive choice and decision-making. These policies are aimed at addressing barriers that limit access to reproductive health services and information, including opportunities to enhance reproductive health literacy. This includes recommendations around the provision of quality family planning and fertility planning services, opportunities to raise public awareness around family planning and fertility planning services, and opportunities to overcome barriers to access. This also includes policies that create an enabling environment for reproductive choice and human rights, including policies that discourage early and forced marriages or interpersonal violence.

The Labor and Economics section focuses on policies aimed at addressing barriers to and strengthening the enabling environment for supportive labor policies and working environments across the family planning and/or fertility planning journey. This includes recommendations around benefits offered by employers, guidance for employers around creating supportive environments, and labor laws.

The final section is Funding and Financing Mechanisms which focuses on policies aimed at addressing barriers to and strengthening the funding or financing environment for family planning, fertility planning, and other reproductive health services. This includes recommendations around overcoming cost barriers associated with both family planning and fertility planning services, as well as recommended funding and financing mechanisms for supporting families with costs associated with having children. This also includes recommendations around macro-level financing for the proposed policies, including exploring opportunities for innovative financing.

The full APEC Smart Families: Menu of Policy Options for Demographic Resilience can be accessed on the APEC website (here).

Organon is eager to continue contributing to the APEC economies' efforts in addressing falling birth rates and persistent unintended pregnancy issues and looks forward to further collaboration in future initiatives to advance the APEC Smart Families initiative.

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