Nearing the end of a furlough after seven years' service as a nurse in India for the Anglican Church of Canada, Jane E. Allen of London, Ontario, returned to the sub-continent in August to assist in a long-range educational project which aims to curb the rapidly-mounting birth rate.
The ecumenical Family Planning Project, started in 1966 by the Christian Medical Association of India, is backed by the government and the Indian National Council of Churches. Expansion of the work calls for eight teams, each consisting of a doctor, nurses and social workers. They will establish birth control programs at more than 400 hospitals and medical centres affiliated with the association. Medical staffs realize that present problems stem from the population explosion and efforts at a solution must be given top priority.
Irish-born Miss Allen will work in North India as she is fluent in Punjabi as well as the Hindustani language. She will be supported financially by the Anglican Church of Canada. Prior to her furlough she had been attached to Maple Leaf Hospital at Kangra, founded by Canadian Anglicans 60 years ago.
"The government is having difficulty in getting the largely illiterate population to practice family planning," said Miss Allen. "Parents still rely on their children for support in old age as no government assistance is provided. They believe that children are the gift of God and male descendants are important, particularly to Hindus."
Miss Allen said the Lippes Loop intra-uterine device, introduced on a mass scale in 1965, has played a useful role, but care must be taken in educating people regarding its function and proper use. Conventional methods for birth control also are freely available, but family planning lags because of fear, prejudice, apathy and lack of education.
With a population of more than 500,000,000, India's birth rate stands about 41 per thousand, nearly three times as high as the current death rate which has been dramatically reduced in the last half century by improved medical services. Christian hospitals have contact with 12,000,000 people annually who would benefit from the proposed family planning program.
Miss Allen explained that each of the teams will visit two or three hospitals monthly, taking with them literature, equipment and a variety of visual aids. They will hold classes for doctors, nurses and hospital maintenance staff who will develop family planning programs under competent medical leadership.
After training as a nurse in England, Miss Allen had three years' experience in the United States before coming to Canada where she took a course at the Anglican Women's Training College here. She went to India in 1961.