Mobile Technology: Text Messages for Better Reproductive Health
Family Health International (FHI)/ PROGRESS is harnessing the power of mobile technology to improve access to family planning information and services across the globe. The growing use of mobile phones and text messaging in developing countries prompted FHI to develop and begin evaluating innovative ways to use this technology to improve family planning services. This low-cost approach to reaching contraceptive users has the potential of improving correct use, uptake, and continuation of chosen methods.
In the first program of its kind, FHI has developed a set of messages addressing eight family planning methods that users can access via their mobile phones. The messages are currently being evaluated in Kenya through the Mobile for Reproductive Health (m4RH) project. In April, FHI began distributing information flyers about the service through family planning clinics in Nairobi. Clients can contact the m4RH family planning information service by sending the text message "m4RH" to the short-code "448" on their mobile phone. From there, users simply follow prompts to access information on the methods of their choice, including information on the location of service providers. Research results may lead to changes in the service. For more on this research project and related activities, including an online demonstration, click here.
Tanzania: Family Planning Costed Implementation Program Launched
At the request of the Tanzania Ministry of Health and Social Welfare (MoHSW) and USAID/Tanzania, FHI/PROGRESS has worked for more than a year as the secretariat in a large collaboration to develop a new National Family Planning Costed Implementation Program (NFPCIP). On March 30, 2010, the Tanzania Minister for Health and Social Welfare, Hon. Prof. David H. Mwakyusa, launched the NFPCIP. The document emphasizes five strategic action areas for implementation: contraceptive security, capacity building, service delivery, health systems management, and advocacy. The MoHSW used a highly consultative and participatory process to develop the NFPCIP, involving a broad range of government officials, stakeholders, and development partners. The goal was to identify specific costs of implementation approaches to reposition and reinvigorate access to and use of family planning services in Tanzania. Read more.
New Collaboration Launched with the East, Central and Southern African Health Community (ECSA)
In February, FHI/PROGRESS launched its collaboration with ECSA by co-hosting a two-day workshop on task shifting and community-based access (CBA) to injectable contraception. More than 30 Ministry of Health officials from Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe discussed new global and African evidence on the topic, shared country experiences, and developed workplans to help expand CBA to family planning. The workshop was held prior to the 50th ECSA Health Ministers' Conference.
FHI's collaboration with ECSA seeks to advance a common goal of increasing access to family planning among underserved populations. The activities are intended to facilitate ECSA's progress in implementing its strategy for repositioning family planning programs per resolutions passed at previous Health Ministers' conferences, working through its ten member countries. Besides the focus on task shifting, the collaboration will initially work to develop standardized family planning/reproductive health guidelines and promote creative family planning program implementation approaches.
Monitoring and Evaluation Technical Assistance on Ethiopia's Implanon Scale-up Initiative
FHI/Ethiopia through PROGRESS is providing technical support to the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) to develop and implement a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system for the Implanon Scale-up Initiative, which will be integrated with the existing FMOH M&E system for family planning. USAID/Ethiopia is funding this work. Most Ethiopians live in rural areas with little access to primary health care and family planning services. To address their limited access to long-term family planning methods, the FMOH is now training the lowest cadre of health worker, the health extension worker, to provide Implanon at health posts. Implanon is a one-rod, sub-dermal contraceptive implant, which provides three years of highly effective pregnancy prevention. Read more.
Number 1 • May 2010
Rwandan Team Completes Initial Training for Post-Partum IUCD Insertion
A delegation of six Rwandan medical and research staff involved in a PROGRESS post-partum intrauterine contraceptive device (IUCD) research study traveled to Kenya on January 25–27, 2010, to observe and learn from the successful Jhpiego/Access project, which is providing immediate postpartum IUCD services in Kenya. FHI/PROGRESS is partnering with Jhpiego to conduct a study in Rwanda that is investigating the integration of post-partum IUCD services into routine obstetric service delivery.
Vasectomy Services Provided at the Community Level in Rwanda
FHI/Rwanda through the PROGRESS project will work with the Ministry of Health to scale up and implement vasectomy services nationwide. Rwanda and FHI are partnering to introduce, for the first time in Africa, a low-cost, battery-operated thermal cautery vasectomy device. Three physicians have now been trained to use this simple, highly effective device, and initial work has shown a high demand and high client acceptability for the method. Expanding access to vasectomy services will help the Government of Rwanda to reach its ambitious goal of increasing the contraceptive prevalence to 70 percent by the year 2020.
Evaluation in Senegal Broadens Interest in Community-based Access to Hormonals
PROGRESS has recently coordinated an evaluation of a USAID-funded, 18-month pilot of community-based distribution (CBD) of oral contraceptives, implemented by ChildFund. Prior to this pilot project, community-based "matrons" in "health huts" could only resupply pills and offer non-hormonal methods. This new project trained the matrons to safely initiate use of pills. PROGRESS worked with CEFOREP, a research nongovernmental organization affiliated with the University of Dakar Ob/Gyn Department, which fielded the evaluation in early 2010. Results of the assessment confirmed the feasibility and acceptability of the intervention. PROGRESS worked with ChildFund, the Ministry of Health, and other key stakeholders to disseminate the results of the evaluation at a national conference on community reproductive health initiatives. During the conference, the government recommended the scale-up of the CBD of pills program and recommended a pilot CBD project to provide injectable contraception, specifically the new injectable Depo SubQ 104 in Uniject. PROGRESS will provide technical assistance to key partners for both initiatives.
PROGRESS (Program Research for Strengthening Services) is a five-year project awarded to FHI 360 by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in June 2008. The project seeks to improve access to family planning among underserved populations by providing global technical leadership and working in selected countries. PROGRESS currently works in eight countries in sub-Saharan Africa and in India.