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 Overview of the Consortium

WHO-CCR in Human Reproduction at AIIMS has completed 2 decades of fruitful collaboration with WHO Special Programme for Research and Development in Human Reproduction. One of the major areas of WHO-CCR research activities is post-ovulatory methods of contraception. A Consortium on National Consensus for Emergency Contraception was organised in New Delhi by WHO-CCR in Human Reproduction, AIIMS, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, ICMR and WHO, on January 11-12, 2001. During the Consortium the experts deliberated on different issues involved in the introduction of Emergency Contraception in India.

This Consortium aimed at arousing the reproductive and family planning healthcare providers, national policy-makers, public and private sector, pharmaceutical companies and community at large, to the need of introduction of Emergency Contraception in our National Health and Family Welfare Programme.

The Consortium was inaugurated by Dr C P Thakur, the Hon’ble Minister of Health and Family Welfare. The activities of the consortium included, open forum on day 1 and Expert forum on day 2. On first day everyone interested for the cause of EC was welcome to participate in the Open Forum. On the second day, during the Expert Forum the experts participating in the Consortium deliberated on different issues related to EC introduction in India and reached a consensus.

The Open Forum of the Consortium was a unique opportunity to promote information exchange between experts and participants. Over 350 participants attended and actively contributed during the interactive lectures, debates and panel discussion on strategies for Emergency Contraception introduction.

The Open Forum comprised five sessions where experts from WHO, Ministry of Health and other world authorities on Emergency Contraception addressed the delegates. The primary focus was to review the current status of Emergency Contraception. Research findings and experience of other countries already having EC in their family planning programmes were shared, and the strategies for EC introduction in India were outlined. There were interesting and thought-provoking debates and panel discussion.

The topics covered included :

- Advances in methods of Emergency Contraception – drugs, mechanism of action, effectiveness, side-effects and current consensus on the best method.

- Emergency Contraception : Global Activity – global scenario of emergency contraception, Global EC Consortium, experience of EC introduction in other countries and strategic approach to EC introduction.

- Emergency Contraception : Indian Perspective – current experience of EC in India including profile and perceptions of EC users and providers, application of technology to rural areas, constraints in EC introduction, role of NGOs.

- Debate on controversial issues for EC introduction in India including availability over the counter, publicity, encouraging promiscuity, decreasing regular contraceptive use, repeated misuse, etc.

- Panel discussion on strategies for introduction of EC in India – role of professional and regulatory bodies, women’s health and gender perspectives, legal and ethical aspects and type of media approach required.

Participants in the Expert Forum on the second day of the Consortium included :

• national and international technical experts
• experts from countries with experience of EC introduction
• policy-makers and planners
• representative from Drug Controller of India
• representatives from Non-Government Organizations
• social scientists
• service-providers
• representatives from pharmaceutical companies
• media experts including medical journalists
• representatives from women’s groups
• university teachers and students
• legal and ethics experts

Prominent dynamic leaders in their respective fields and those interested in women’s health were chosen to reflect on the current status of Emergency Contraception in India and forge a vision for the future. Overall, 126 experts participated in the Expert Forum.

Central to the Expert Forum were six small-group discussions that focussed on key issues related to EC introduction in India, and consensus on how to introduce EC in India. The Expert Forum had issue-based discussions on the following topics :

- Dedicated Method of choice for Emergency Contraception in India
- Pre-introduction IEC and media campaigns for public awareness
- Training curriculum of healthcare providers for Emergency Contraception services
- Ideal approach to introduction and distribution of Emergency Contraception to the masses
- Client information and counselling for safe usage of Emergency Contraception
- National monitoring of the programme

Experts were called upon to think creatively and to recommend specific consensus on issues raised before the specific groups. Two co-ordinators from each Group provided the background material for discussions and a facilitator moderated each small-group discussion to reach a consensus.

Each group then presented the recommendations to Shri A R Nanda, Secretary (FW) to the Govt. of India in the MOHFW. He played a highly active leadership role, which encouraged active participation from all members of the Expert Forum. A very lively discussion occurred before reaching the final consensus on each of the issues. Wherever appropriate, Shri A R Nanda summed up the recommendations with women’s health issues getting top-priority therein. The consensus statements and recommendations included in the final report have his approval. The Consensus Statements are addressed to all policy-makers, planner, healthcare providers, women’s advocates and women themselves and aim at improving the overall Reproductive Health of women in India.

This Consortium was held with following three main purposes :

First, to update everybody concerned with reproductive healthcare and contraception on the latest advances in Emergency Contraception;

Second, to discuss and debate the strategies for EC introduction in India; and

Third, to set forth the guidelines for introducing emergency contraception in India.

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Introduction | Overview of the Consortium | Consensus Statements
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