The Barbados Family Planning Association (BFPA) wants to see an increase in the national birth rate but says it remains concerned about the incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), as well as the number of men who are not taking their health seriously.
Addressing the BFPA’s 62nd annual general meeting in the Barbados Yacht Club over the weekend, President Ruth Phillips noted that when the association was formed over six decades ago, there was focus “on reducing the size of families by helping women to control and space their fertility”.
However, she said Barbados had now come full circle on the issue of population and development, as she called on the island to use its 50th anniversary of Independence to, “once again look at the issue of our population demographics.
“This includes devising policies which increase the birth rate, such as providing expanded support and incentives for working women and families; fostering healthy independent ageing for our expanding senior population; examining immigration-social services priorities,” Phillips said.
“The Barbados Family Planning Association would recommend the establishment of a multi-sectoral population council to look at the relationship between demography and development over the next 50 years,” she added, while stating that the proposal would be put to both Government and the Opposition.
However, BFPA Executive Director Juliette Bynoe-Sutherland expressed concern that men, who are vitally important to any increase in the overall birth rate, continue to be complacent about their health.
“We still have a lot of work to do in Barbados with men. And we still, across the health sector, are dealing with poor male health-seeking behaviour,” she said.
“Though you see the upward trend in men using our clinic, though our services are growing from year to year . . . we’re still not to the level we would like. We have not maxed-out the capacity of our male clinic,” she said while reporting that 7,307 men visited the BFPA clinics in 2015, almost doubling the 3,869 of 2013.
“We need to work collectively with the Men’s Health Association, and other partners to strengthen the work that we’re doing with men.”
However, she said there were positive trends among men between the ages of 20 and 24.
“A lot of this is urged on by couples testing. We see a lot of couples coming to the Barbados Family Planning, so young women are bringing their partners,” she explained.
Another factor affecting an increase in the national birth rate is the number of STIs, which hit 217 in 2015.
The BFPA Executive Director did not give any comparative data but said the association regarded that number as high.
“This is reflective of the growing numbers of epidemiology, which tells us that we are having an increasing number of persons who are having STIs, and it is an area in which we have to continue to do more prevention work in,” she added.