London, 22nd November 2011: People are familiar with franchising in commercial settings: Starbucks, for instance, has changed the face of coffee around the world. And now experts are asking: “Can the franchise model have a positive transformational effect on health in the developing world by delivering services where they’re need most at an affordable price?”
For Marie Stopes International, the answer is a resounding “yes”. We believe that social franchising is a key element in expanding access to modern contraception to the 215 million women around the world who want to choose how many children to have and when, but aren’t currently able to.
We took part in the First Global Conference on Social Franchising in Mombasa last month. It proved an excellent opportunity to share best practice with our global partners and meet leading thinkers from around the world. Our Head of Social Franchising, Cynthia Eldridge and Social Franchise Managers Senanu Arkutu and Moses Mwaniki have been blogging about the challenges and opportunities that this exciting approach presents. Visit the First Global Social Franchise Conference website to read all the blog posts.
By training healthcare providers we are able to guarantee quality service delivery. These franchisees can be doctors, nurses, midwives, clinical officers or pharmacists. In total, we now have almost 1,500 providers in developing countries across the world, all delivering the same high quality voluntary family planning services to clients.
And we now have social franchise networks in ten countries; some well-established like our seven year old network in Kenya, while others are reaching their first underserved clients through this innovative new model. Our BlueStar network in Uganda is just a few months old, but already has 50 providers offering voluntary family planning and reproductive healthcare services to the community. Thanks to support from USAID and UK aid, that number will soon reach 500.
The benefits of social franchising for clients are clear: improved access to a range of reproductive healthcare services close to their home. For instance, in the Philippines we launched BlueStar in 2008 to increase the accessibility of high quality family planning services. Prices are affordable and clinics have an informal sliding scale of costs to ensure no one is turned away. Clients can choose a full range of voluntary family planning and reproductive healthcare services.
Social franchising also has a positive impact on providers, transforming both their physical clinic and their ability to serve their community by improving the range and quality of services. Franchisee Anna Miranda joined our BlueStar Philippines network two years ago. At the time, she was barely surviving on the earnings she made as the village midwife in a shanty town perched on reclaimed land in the Philippines’ capital city, Manila. Her home – where she saw clients so that she could be on hand around the clock – was basic.
Her home has now been extended into a clean and welcoming BlueStar clinic. And with the training and ongoing support given by Marie Stopes International, Anna says that she is now “changing lives in an area where people really have nothing”. She is offering clients voluntary contraception and counselling, and even organising birthing parties where she gives advice to local mothers-to-be.
Marie Stopes International’s Head of Social Franchising Cynthia Eldridge explains why social franchising is such an important concept for us:
“Because of the sheer scale of unmet need for family planning, social franchising is crucial if we want to accelerate the provision of these services close to the client.”
“In countries where we’ve invested in social franchising, there’s a large existing network of private health providers who people trust with most of their health needs. These private health providers often offer few or no reproductive healthcare services.”
“Training these trusted, local providers to provide quality services to the Marie Stopes International ‘gold standard’, giving them access to high quality contraceptive commodities and monitoring their level of care means that women in hard to reach areas are given choice over their reproductive health, quickly and in a cost effective way. Organising and strengthening the private sector through social franchising allows us to strengthen the national health system and achieve national health impact,” Eldridge concludes.
So far this year our social franchise networks have seen 2.8 million clients and delivered 1.4 million CYPs (couple years of protection), a 162% increase on last year. Their efforts will prevent 406,856 unintended pregnancies, 55,124 unsafe abortions, and 611 maternal deaths as a result of unsafe abortion.
We’re playing a leading role in using social franchising to expand access to family planning and reproductive health services. So it’s clear to us that social franchising isn’t just something that might increase access to family planning in the future. It’s happening now.
Visit the First Global Social Franchise Conference website to read our blog posts
Download our report, Social Franchising: reaching the underserved