Canadian Federation of Medical Students – AccessBC Campaign Joint Statement
February 11, 2020
Access to contraception is a human right. Universal coverage for contraception empowers people, improves health outcomes, and leads to significant cost savings. Today, the Canadian Federation of Medical Students (CFMS) and the AccessBC Campaign are pleased to release the following joint statement in support of universal no-cost prescription contraception across Canada.
“There are a lot of barriers to accessing effective contraception - social factors, factors within the health system, and challenges unique to each individual, with the result that too many Canadians can’t access the contraception they need,” said Devon Black, co-founder of the AccessBC campaign. “But we know that the most significant barrier is cost, and that’s why we’re calling for provincial and federal governments across Canada to ensure that everyone who needs prescription contraception can access it at no cost.”
“Access to prescription contraception has to be a priority, both from a cost and a patient care perspective,” said Lara Witt, National Officer of Political Action for the CFMS. “We know that unintended pregnancies cost Canadian health systems over $61 million annually, but studies have shown that providing universal contraception coverage could see that entire amount saved in as little as six to twelve months.”
In addition to the financial savings, contraception is a key aspect of basic healthcare. “For a lot of patients, prescription contraception isn’t just about preventing pregnancy - these medications are used to prevent or treat illnesses as varied as endometrial cancers, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, and heavy or irregular menstrual bleeding,” said Witt. “Without them, the health consequences people face can be very serious.”
Studies have shown that the cost of universal access to contraception is more than offset by savings to the health care system, thanks to reduced medical costs resulting from unintended pregnancies. An Options for Sexual Health study from 2010 estimated that the BC government could save as much as $95 million annually - nearly twice the projected cost of implementing this policy. A separate 2015 study in the Canadian Association Medical Journal estimated that the cost of delivering universal contraception across Canada would be $157 million, but the savings - for direct medical costs of unintended pregnancy alone - would be approximately $320 million.
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada (SOGC) 2015 Canadian Contraception Consensus states that it is both safe and feasible for allied health workers (midwives, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and pharmacists) to provide contraceptive care. Using allied healthcare professionals in prescribing contraception is an essential avenue for improving access.
A lack of awareness of contraceptive methods and misconceptions about safety and efficacy also impede access to contraception in Canada. An essential component of providing universal access to contraception is increasing public education with evidence-based information. The SOGC provides excellent resources for contraceptive information and they should be an accessible and recognizable resource for all Canadians.
Reflecting on current evidence, universal coverage of contraception in Canada through a federal plan is an effective method to increase healthcare equity and access, and to ease the burden of healthcare spending. The CFMS and AccessBC call upon the Canadian federal government to:
Provide federally sponsored universal coverage of contraception, including the copper IUD, for all Canadians;
Sponsor public education campaigns to endorse and circulate the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada guidelines and information about contraceptive methods and use;
Incorporate contraceptive use and methods in Statistics Canada data collection efforts;
Include all contraceptive methods, including the copper IUD, in the National Pharmacare Plan and utilize the CFMS as a consultant in this process; and
Implement a task shifting model in all Canadian provinces and territories to improve access to contraceptive counselling, prescriptions, and IUD insertion.
About the Canadian Federation of Medical Students
The Canadian Federation of Medical Students is the national voice of Canadian Medical Students. We connect, support and represent our membership as they learn to serve patients and society. The CFMS represents over 8,000 medical students from 15 Canadian medical student societies from coast to coast.