By Scott Radloff, Director of the Office of Population and Reproductive Health

This October 31st the UN has projected that the world population will reach 7 billion.  In my lifetime, the world population has passed the 3, 4, 5, and 6 billion milestones.  During that time the world has become much more interconnected and great advances have been made to help people across the globe live healthier and longer lives.

Today, on World Population Day, as we anticipate the arrival of the seven billionth human being on earth, I’d like to pose the question: what more must we do to ensure the health, nutritional, and educational needs of all seven billion are met?

One place to start is by meeting the reproductive health needs of the more than 215 million women in the world who would like to postpone or stop having children but are not using modern contraception.  Investing in family planning translates to lower maternal and child mortality, reduced need for abortion, and it improves women’s opportunities and family well-being.  A USAID-supported study in Bangladesh (PDF,147kb) found that families who received reproductive health services experienced health benefits in addition to larger incomes, greater accumulation of wealth, higher levels of education, and improved access to water.

As we look forward to the next 60 years, it is certain that the world population will increase to 8 billion.  Beyond that the world’s population might stabilize at around 8 billion by the end of the century or could reach upwards of 16 billion, according to the UN projections.  The future course of population growth depends on our current and continued investment in and commitment to voluntary family planning programs, as well as investments in child survival and girls’ education.