London, 11th November 2011: A new report has been launched today which looks at how family planning access and choice is being increased around the world through clinical outreach programmes.
The report by our Innovations and Best Practice team, and produced with support from USAID, details key lessons and emerging practices around how to improve access to our services through outreach. It is designed to help service providers, programme managers and donors implement and strengthen outreach programmes which are offering family planning services.
Globally, we now have outreach programmes in 26 countries providing family planning services and comprehensive counselling at 6,000 sites in places like Ethiopia, Ghana, Papua New Guinea and Bangladesh. These teams typically adopt one of three approaches: the mobile clinical service delivery team approach; the mobile quality improvement team approach; and the mobile community outreach worker approach.
In Bangladesh, where the mobile quality improvement team approach is used, we have been reaching underserved communities across the country, giving women - including adolescent girls and the homeless - access to family planning services, counselling and awareness raising, for the first time.
The team has had success in reaching adolescent girls from poor families by using peer training and theatre to educate them about the consequences of early marriages.
Poorer families often prefer early marriage because of perceived financial and social benefits, but aren’t aware of the risk it poses to their daughters’ health. The risk of maternal mortality is five times higher for mothers aged 10 to 14 years than those aged 20 to 24 years.
Girls like Sharmeen, aged 15, who has been married for four years, are already seeing the benefits of access to family planning services and education. Sharmeen is one of ten children and her parents couldn’t afford to reject the offer of marriage she received at just 11 years old.
By 13, she was living with her husband. By 14, she was pregnant with her first child. Unable to afford the quality maternal health care she needed, her mother suggested she consider an abortion but her husband wouldn’t allow this.
Forced to go through with her pregnancy, Sharmeen experienced complications during labour which left her with psychological scars. But now she can make the right choice for her and her family by accessing the services we now offer her community.
Our Senior Director of Services for Bangladesh, Reena Yasmin, said: “Early marriage is a deeply-rooted problem in Bangladesh, and one that it’s difficult to prevent. However, what we can do is raise awareness of the family planning services available through our centres and outreach teams.”
By working in partnership with the government, and using the latest Demographic and Health Survey data, the outreach team in Bangladesh is leaving a lasting legacy that is helping to strengthen existing public health services and raise awareness of the range of family planning choices available to women.
Reproductive health and family planning services are essential to good health among mothers and their children. These services save lives and empower women. The report shows that outreach programmes have increasing potential to provide quality family planning services in communities where they have not been available before.
The publication of the report was funded by USAID to help share family planning experiences and best practices.
Download our ‘Increasing family planning access and choice’ report now
Learn more about USAID’s Family Planning program