The Implementing Best Practices Semiannual Consortium meeting was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, June 16-18. Nine representatives from JSI (US, Zambia, Ethiopia) attended. This meeting worked to foster dialogue and promote collaboration among IBP partners focusing on preventing mother and child deaths in East Africa and how to best advance implementation and scale-up of key family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) practices.
Two big things stand out about the Implementing Best Practices (IBP) meeting held in Addis Ababa this year. The first was that it was held in Africa. Typically, IBP meetings have been Europe- and US-centric, with only a few representatives from the developing world. And yet, the focus and raison d’etre of the IBP movement is scaling up and publicizing best practices in family planning and other health areas, specifically in underserved countries. This meeting brought together health professionals from throughout East and Southern Africa who, for the first time, presented, critiqued, and studied the experiences of their peers.
The second outstanding “take home” from the IBP meeting was the presentation of the newest WHO Medical Eligibility Criteria. Only a true FP enthusiast would be excited by this, but it was indeed exciting. Eligibility for virtually every kind of contraceptive and client has been relaxed in the new criteria, and the potential impact is profound. For example, now immediate postpartum insertion of implants is endorsed by WHO; this can greatly increase the potential for effective, immediate postpartum FP services. Of course, not every country in Africa will jump to change their rules and protocols right away. Sooner or later, though, things will change; in a world where unmet need for FP is so very high, and the only way to reach isolated clients is through community-based services, anything which helps crack the door is exciting.
The next session—1st ECOWAS Good Practices Forum in Health—is scheduled to take place mid-summer in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso on July 29-31. Best practices will be identified and documented in the areas of family planning, maternal and newborn health, and youth and adolescent sexual and reproductive health, and will be evaluated on effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, possibility of replication or scale-up, sustainability, and ethical validity. Eight other countries have been selected to organize national workshops on dissemination of methodological tools for Health Best Practices (HBP) documentation, including: Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Mali, Nigeria, Togo, Benin, Ghana and Niger.
Hopefully, this series of meetings marks the beginning of a new trend toward increased and improved FP/RH services throughout East and Southern Africa.