Indira Ghandhi said: There is only one problem, education. All other problems can be reduced to this.
Today I was reminded of this quote as I read a clinical review of Natural Fertility Management published in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. The review was written by Drs Stephen R. Pallone MD and George R. Bergus, MD at the University of Iowa (click here for the PDF).
In the review Drs Pallone & Bergus conduct a thorough investigation of over 60 studies done on natural birth control methods over the last 50 years. They conclude that while natural methods (also called Fertility Awareness Based Methods or FABS) have average typical-use unintended pregnancy rates of between 1% and 3% (better than the seldom cited typical use unintended pregnancy rate of the birth control pill at 8%), nearly no-one knows about them.
How could this be? The reason stated in the review is that “Physicians’ and other medical personnel’s limited knowledge of and experience with the methods inhibits broader use.” In other words, most doctors do not have experience working with and educating their patients about these methods. From speaking to my doctor friends I know that these methods are not generally taught in medical schools and so predictably doctors are unable to teach them to their patients.
So like Ms. Gandhi says, if we want more people to know about the benefits of Natural Fertility Management, the solution is to educate. Just as Big Pharma spends time and money educating doctors and the public on the existence and efficacy of their products, our long-term challenge is to educate doctors, health-care workers, and the public on the existence and efficacy of our Fertility Awareness tools at Kindara.
Since doctors and healthcare professionals practice medicine out of a commitment to help people, they are generally very interested to learn about new trends, and I think this will be a fun and rewarding process. Some potential educational strategies are:
- Create technology that makes it easier to practice these methods (we’re on it).
- Commission and distribute white-papers on Natural Fertility Management written by doctors and scientists (we have one in the works currently).
- Produce the best online materials (videos, tutorials, FAQs, etc) for women to learn the method (also in the works).
- Establish a medical advisory board to perform outreach to other doctors and health professionals – like Clearblue has done here. (Our current panel has 2 doctors and 2 FA educators and it’s growing).
- Produce and publicize a curricula to train Fertility Awareness teachers (Justisse has done an excellent job on this front).
- Produce curricula and guidelines to introduce Fertility Awareness education into med schools, nursing programs and the like (The Institute for Reproductive Health at Georgetown University has taken the lead on this here).
- Produce curricula to teach Fertility Awareness in high-school! Probably the most effective long-term strategy on this list, I just discovered TeenSTAR as one example program and am looking to learn more about their approach.
- Produce programs to teach Fertility Awareness to women within Planned Parenthood clinics around the nation.
- Product placement of Fertility Awareness in movies and TV shows (I heard Khloe Kardashian was charting for a while).
- Advertising, public relations and lobbying at all levels of government.
- Standardize and spruce up the language around Natural Fertility Management to achieve consistency. This will make all of the above that much easier.
After we saturate the existing market, our goal is to bring Natural Fertility Management to the masses using a collection of the above strategies. What strategies did I miss? I’d love to hear your thoughts.