A recent Analysis of the survey data from 55 developing countries has shown that, a 'contraceptive gap' separates the very poor from the rest of society.
It was already well known that rates of use of modern contraceptives have risen over several decades, but it was not clear whether this was true for all socio-economic groups.
In this research published in the latest issue of PLoS Medicine, researchers based at World Health Organization HQ in Geneva brought together data from over 100 health and population surveys. They found that the contraceptive gap has remained over the years (and in some cases grown wider), even as the overall wealth of the countries (based on Gross Domestic Product) has risen.
However, a rise in GDP does not mean that family planning services automatically become more accessible to everyone. The authors say their findings show that governments and international health organizations need to focus their attention on providing contraceptive services in a way that will reach people who have very low incomes.
The researchers noted strong regional variations, with the lowest national rates of contraceptive use found in sub-Saharan Africa. Use among the poor was highest in South and Southeast Asia, and the largest inequalities in use were found in Latin America.
In a commentary published in the same issue of PLoS Medicine, Professor Duff Gillespie of the Bill and Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health says the new findings are important. He asks whether the lower use of modern contraceptives among is the poor due to a lack of desire for contraceptives, or because they do not have access to family planning services. He supports the view that the family planning needs of the poorest have yet to be adequately met.