A Missed Opportunity: Integrating Emergency Contraception into Community-Based Family Planning Programs

 

 

World Contraception Day takes place every year on September 26. The aim is to help each new generation make informed decisions until every pregnancy in the world is a planned one.

Emergency contraception (EC) gives girls and women a safe and effective way of preventing an unwanted pregnancy when their first line of defense fails, no family planning method was used, or sex was forced upon them in cases of rape or incest. Emergency Contraceptive Pills (ECPs) are a commercially viable commodity available in pharmacies worldwide. However, women from low-income households in rural areas continue to face challenges in obtaining and using EC, including lack of transport and high cost.

Provision of community-based family planning (CBFP), an important focus of the Advancing Partners & Communities (APC) Project, is one of the best ways of ensuring access to family planning (FP) services in rural and underserved areas. This high impact practice, often excludes EC. Not including ECPs in the CBFP method mix is a missed opportunity for family planning programs and needs to change. Only 33 percent of social marketing programs globally distribute ECPs and even less so within CBFP programs.

Provision of community-based family planning (CBFP) is one of the best ways of ensuring access to family planning (FP) services in rural and underserved areas. Photo credit: Laura Wando/WellShare International
Provision of community-based family planning (CBFP) is one of the best ways of ensuring access to family planning (FP) services in rural and underserved areas. Photo credit: Laura Wando/WellShare International

 

Over the summer, the APC project held a technical consultation with stakeholders from USAID and implementing partners to talk about the important and overlooked topic of EC in CBFP programs. The consultation featured presentations from the International Consortium for Emergency Contraception (ICEC), Population Sciences International (PSI) and USAID. Presentations pointed out that there is a need to expand the community-based method mix to include ECPs even though challenges remain in several areas including funding priorities, myths and misconceptions about ECPs, and EC being seen as a priority FP method.

The meeting showcased a recent assessment by WellShare International and APC to evaluate current knowledge, use, supply, and barriers to the use of ECPs in four districts in Uganda where CBFP programs are operating. The assessment found stakeholders, including clients and CHWs, felt that CHW provision of ECPs would increase awareness of, demand for, and greater access to ECPs. This result is highly promising as Uganda’s CBFP policy allows for ECP distribution through CHWs.

Stay tuned for updates on APC’s integration of ECP into CBFP programs in Uganda. You can access the presentations from this meeting here.

Additionally, ICEC and the World Health Organization (WHO), with the UN Commission on Life Saving Commodities for Women and Children (UNCoLSC) are hosting a full day event on emergency contraception, in advance of the International Conference on Family Planning in Indonesia on November 8th. To RSVP, please fill out this short form: http://goo.gl/forms/UeIvRTpddG

Advancing Partners & Communities would like to thank the following organizations for helping to plan the technical consultation and for giving presentations: ICEC, FHI 360, John Snow, Inc. (JSI) and PSI, USAID, and World Vision.