The World Health Organization (WHO) develops guidance through a process that begins with systematic review and assessment of research evidence into key public health questions. Then, WHO convenes working groups of experts from around the world. The working groups assess the implications of the evidence and make recommendations for health care services and practice. Policy-makers and program managers can use these recommendations to write or update national guidelines and program policies.

Using this process, the Department of Reproductive Health and Research issues guidance on specific issues as important questions arise. It also maintains 2 sets of guidance that are updated and expanded periodically:

  • The Medical Eligibility Criteria for Contraceptive Use provides guidance on whether people with certain medical conditions can safely and effectively use specific contraceptive methods.

  • The Selected Practice Recommendations for Contraceptive Use answers questions about how to use various contraceptive methods.

This book, Family Planning: A Global Handbook for Providers, offers technical information to help health care providers deliver family planning methods appropriately and effectively. It incorporates and reflects the Medical Eligibility Criteria and the Selected Practice Recommendations as well as other WHO guidance. This third edition brings the Global Handbook up to date with current WHO guidance on all topics covered. A thorough reference guide, the handbook provides specific and practical guidance on 21 family planning methods. It also covers health issues that may arise in the context of family planning services. The intended primary audience for this handbook is health care providers who offer family planning in resource-limited settings around the world. Health care managers, supervisors, and policy-makers also may find this book helpful.

The Decision-MakingTool for Family Planning Clients and Providers incorporates WHO guidance into a tool that helps family planning providers and clients to discuss family planning choices and helps clients make informed decisions. This flipchart tool leads provider and client through a structured yet tailored process that facilitates choosing and using a family planning method. The tool also helps to guide return visits by family planning clients.

Together, these 4 publications—the Medical Eligibility Criteria, the Selected Practice Recommendations, the Global Handbook, and the Decision-Making Tool—are known as the 4 Cornerstones of WHO’s family planning guidance.

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