THE BLOG
01/21/2015 09:44 am ET Updated Mar 23, 2015

Focus on the Finances of Sexual Health

The snow-capped mountains of the Swiss skiing resort of Davos seem a million miles away from the small wooden shack in a slum in Pampanga, Philippines that Marites Garcia calls home.

Every day she sees her eight children and two grandchildren go without food. It breaks her heart but there's little she can do. She doesn't have an education or a job and neither does her husband.

"It was an accident to have so many children. I didn't plan it. Two children would have been enough," Marites said.

Marites is one of 225 million women who would like to use contraception but can't get hold of it.

In the past Marites' story may have seemed of little consequence to the high powered business leaders who get together for their annual summit in exclusive Davos. But now they are beginning to realize how much Marites story matters to them and to the global economy.

For the first time last year organizers started to elevate their conversations to include health. They realized that to improve the health of the economy they would need to improve the population's health.

It's a drum that we have been banging for years at the International Planned Parenthood Federation. When business leaders talk about health, we know that there is a serious economic point to be made, especially when you talk about it in the broadest possible terms to include sexual health.

The figures speak for themselves when it comes to investing in sexual health services and the powerful impact it can have on a country's economies.

Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, the Executive Director of UNFPA, recently highlighted the example of East Asia. In 1950, the Philippines, Thailand and the Republic of Korea all had about the same total population, around 20 million, and similar GDP per capita, between $800 and $1,000.

South Korea invested in education, health and voluntary family planning -- fertility fell more quickly than in the other countries, meaning fewer children and more resources available to create or expand businesses, build infrastructure and for productive investments that led to economic growth.

Between 1950 and 2008, South Korea's GDP grew about 2,200 percent, while Thailand's grew 970 percent, and the Philippines' grew only 170 percent.

At the moment the Guttmacher Institute estimates that about two out of five pregnancies worldwide are unintended. We know that it would take about $8.1 billion to supply the family planning services to ensure that the 225 million women like Marites could get contraception. The end results would quite literally change the world.

Family planning prevents an estimated 150,000 maternal deaths each year and equals about £297 million in health care system savings. If current unmet need were met, family planning services could save a further 90,000 lives.

But without additional funding being made available for sexual and reproductive health and rights women like Marites Garcia will never be able to get the help they need so they can support their families or contribute to the economies of their countries. The existing funding for health and education is not enough -- we believe there needs to be extra funding which is specifically tailored towards sexual health.

Just imagine how different Marites Garcia's life could have been if she had been able to stay at school to finish her education and had been able to plan her family so she'd only have had two children. She would have been able to get a job to feed and educate them. By supporting her family she would have been able to contribute to her local economy and in turn to her nation's economy. Small investments can produce staggering results.

That's why IPPF is campaigning for a goal on gender equality, women's empowerment and universal access to sexual and reproductive health and rights to be at the heart of new development goals.

Let's hope world leaders start truly broadening their focus and finances.