The Promise for a Better Future
Alexander Sanger, Chair of the International Planned Parenthood Council
A concern for the health and well-being of women, families and communities runs deep in my veins. My grandmother, Margaret Sanger, was arrested in 1916 when she opened America’s first birth control clinic in Brooklyn. Moved by her experience as a nurse in New York’s crowded Lower East Side neighborhood, she was determined to alleviate the unnecessary suffering she saw day-in and day-out, suffering caused by the lack of information and services women needed to protect their health.
Guided in part by the conviction that where you live should not dictate the quality of health care you receive, in the early 1950s, she went on to help found the International Planned Parenthood Federation, which today provides women, men and young people with lifesaving services in 172 countries.
While we’ve come a long way towards ensuring women’s reproductive freedom in recent decades, more remains to be done.In our region—Latin America and the Caribbean—shocking income inequality, draconian laws, and high rates of preventable diseases—such as cervical cancer—are urgent challenges that threaten the lives of millions.
We work to meet these urgent challenges by providing high quality reproductive health services and advocating for supportive government policies. At the heart of our success lies a fantastic group of volunteers and staff who share my grandmother’s belief that simple interventions can transform the lives of individuals, families, and communities. Day-in and day-out, they traverse windy mountain roads and dense jungle foliage to deliver the services people want, need, and deserve. But most importantly, they innovate, creating cost-effective solutions to seemingly intractable problems.
Today, cervical cancer claims the lives of approximately 275,000 women worldwide. This figure is expected to rise to more than 400,000 in less than 20 years, but we can reverse this trend. In Latin America and the Caribbean, our network is pioneering innovative and low-cost methods to detect and treat cervical cancer in its early stages among poor and rural women. And in countries like Honduras and Bolivia, where deaths from cervical cancer remain high, our educational and vaccination programs are protecting future generations from this preventable disease.
With proven solutions now within reach, we have the obligation to change the course of this disease in Latin America and the Caribbean. The question is no longer how—but when—we will ensure that comprehensive cervical cancer prevention, detection, and treatment programs are available to all women.