Family planning can have remarkable effects on women, children and families. When women are able to decide how many children to have and when, they are more able to meet their own educational, health and economic goals. Planning the number and timing of pregnancies also allows women to plan their finances and invest in the children they have. Unfortunately, not every woman has access to the contraception necessary to decide when to have children and how many to have. Perhaps the answer lies in an expanded role for community-based health workers.
Many governments and nongovernmental organizations have turned to community-based family planning programs to expand access to contraceptives.These distribution programs have been credited with advancing family planning endeavors in otherwise underserved areas in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Despite the progress made there is room for improvement. One challenge community health workers encounter is the fact that, while national policies in many countries permit community health workers to provide condoms and oral contraceptives, they are not allowed to administer injectable contraceptives. This is particularly problematic in sub-Saharan Africa, where injectable contraceptives are a preferred method of contraception for women.
Thanks to recent support from the World Health Organization and U.S. Agency for International Development — who have stated that well-trained community health workers can screen clients, provide injections and counsel clients on side effects safely and effectively — community-based injectable distribution is gaining global support and attention. The next step is to provide decision makers with practical guidance for where to start.
To that end, a group of experts in family planning from FHI 360 has published a report titled Community-Based Distribution of Injectable Contraceptives: Introduction Strategies in Four Sub-Saharan African Countries. The article documents observations and lessons learned from the launch of community-based programs distributing injectable contraceptives in Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria and Uganda. The research shows that there is a high demand for injectable contraceptives and that well-trained health workers are able to provide them safely to women in their communities. This work builds on FHI 360’s leadership in community-based family planning in Africa, particularly in the provision of injectable contraception.
Read the full report here.