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Istituto Superiore di Sanità
EpiCentro - Epidemiology for public health
Epidemiology for public health - ISS

About family planning services

Formally established in 1975 (Law 405/75), family planning services were introduced across the country at a different pace and through different procedures following approval of relevant regional laws. The distinctive characteristics of these services (multidisciplinarity, non-directivity, gender perspective) have always been considered as a unique asset to be preserved, despite all their problems. Indeed, since the late 1980s, national commissions promoted by successive Health Ministers have produced guidelines for upgrading and enhancing family planning services. In 2000, the Project on Maternal and Child Health (Progetto obiettivo materno infantile – POMI) was adopted as the operational expression of the strategic importance attached to maternal and child health protection. In 2007, a joint meeting of the State-Regions Conference and the Maternal and Child Health working group (Tavolo materno-infantile) reached an “agreement for the implementation of interventions, initiatives and actions aimed at developing innovative experimental projects to reorganize family planning services”. More recently, the need to upgrade and enhance family planning services was reiterated in national plans on “fertility” and “child and adolescent health”, and to meet the standards set out in the revised 2017 Essential Levels of Care (LEA). As further evidence of public institutions’ interest in these services, the Ministry of Health included an ISS-coordinated review of family planning services across the country and assessment of their activities among its 2017 core actions, with a view to identifying good practices to be implemented in a family planning service improvement programme.


The multidisciplinary and holistic approach of these health and social care services (there were over 1,800 of them operating across the country in 2017), their emphasis on addressing the complexity of peoples’ health needs also by making them feel welcomed, listened to and properly informed, as well as their ability to identify new emerging needs within the population and to implement health promotion programmes aimed at empowering people and communities confirm the extraordinary public health relevance and potential of family planning services. As part of a health promotion programme, it is therefore important to rethink family planning services as active providers of services for the community as a whole, rather than passive providers of care for the individuals who visit them. Such initiatives may have a significant impact on strategic areas of activity of family planning services, such as maternity care, prevention of tumours affecting women and reproductive health education for adolescents.


The Declaration of Astana, endorsed at the 2018 Global Conference on Primary Health Care, highlights the importance of setting up primary healthcare services that are integrated, accessible, available and affordable for everyone and everywhere, provided with compassion, respect and dignity by health professionals who are well-trained and motivated. Family planning services are a good example of this type of health services.

Publication date: 2 January 2021