“Breaking the Chain of Poverty”: Family Planning, Community Involvement, and the Population Council–Office of Economic Opportunity Alliance
- Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences
- Oxford University Press
- Volume 69, Number 1, January 2014
- pp. 101-134
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The Office of Economic Opportunity–Population Council program is an example of a mid-twentieth-century federal government/private foundation cooperative effort to place family planning and maternal health at the center of a fight against entrenched poverty. These joint efforts were the trend in family planning and maternal health provision by the 1960s and had two overlapping but also contradictory goals. The first was to provide contraceptive services to poor women to reduce the numbers of poor children, thus relieving the poor of added mouths to feed. Popular fears of a population explosion, mounting welfare rolls, and an increase in the numbers of African Americans receiving welfare fueled this goal. The second aim, however, was to expand comprehensive maternal health services to help reduce poverty by increasing poor women’s involvement in and control over the health institutions that could have significant impact on their lives. While the first goal pivoted on encouraging poor women to bear fewer children, the second sought to integrate poor women into community healthcare delivery systems.