Family Planning: How can the health workforce provide meaningful family planning support

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by IZERE Salomon and SIBOMANA Olivier, two 2nd year medical students at University of Rwanda, college of medicine and health sciences, department of general medicine and surgery. They are affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Family planning is the information, means, and methods that allow individuals to decide if and when to have children. This includes a wide range of contraceptives including pills, implants, intrauterine devices, surgical procedures that limit fertility, and barrier methods such as condoms as well as non-invasive methods such as calendar methods and abstinence. Family planning also includes information about how to become pregnant when it is desirable, as well as treatment of infertility.[1], [2]

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) aim to meet 75% of the global demand for contraception by 2030. To meet these goals, national programs will need to bring together many components, including social and behavior change, gender and rights perspectives, commodities, and quality service provision by adequately trained health care providers.[1]

Family planning plays a great role in the advancement of the health and economic status of families, and is, therefore, a central core or component of a healthy and sustainable society both for specific measures like infant or maternal mortality, to broader indicators of employment, education, and life expectancy to the overall nation. It enables parents to have enough time for caring for their children, minimizing pregnancy-related risks such as reproductive cancers and allowing better growth of begotten children. Based on the importance of family planning and the need for its implementation, the role of the healthcare workforce is needed in the provision of effective family planning services. This can be done through public and home-visiting reproductive health education, preconception counseling and management, referring and follow-ups, helping clients choose the best contraceptive methods, and providing contraceptive services to the public.

True information on the importance of family planning is the first thing that people need to know before starting using one of the family planning methods, and people can acquire this information through reproductive health education. People tend to accept such information when recommended by health care workers. This highlights the importance of a healthy workforce in providing relevant information about family planning to the public. Health care workers can also help implement family planning through counseling and management of people, especially mothers. These pieces of advice are very important for mothers as they help them better understand the family planning methods and choose the best method for themselves. Guidance from health care providers such as nurses and family doctors are needed in helping people choose the best contraceptive method based on their health status after diagnosing them.

Effective follow-ups of such people must be offered by health care providers to ensure the good health of the clients. Health workforce are like champions of the family planning program as they intervene in leading, supporting, and helping the community. By reducing the time and money clients spend trying to reach a clinic, the provision of contraceptives by community health workers can facilitate uptake and continued use of contraceptive methods. [3]

The health workforce is encouraged to make sure that people are aware and knowledgeable about when and how to use family planning and its roles in their lives and the nation. Outreach is one of the most powerful and effective ways of reaching people in need of contraceptive services. Not all women can reach clinics, so the health workforce must meet them where they are. They must take services to some of the most remote and underserved communities in the country, bringing choice to people who cannot come to them.[4], [5]

As CSE (Comprehensive sexuality education) is a curriculum-based and age-appropriate process of teaching and learning about all aspects of sexuality that equips students with knowledge, attitudes, skills, and values that empower them to realize and actively take care of their health.[6][7], youth needs such kind of teachings and have the right to comprehensive information about their sexual and reproductive health. CSE has been shown to improve adolescent SRH knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors when implemented well:[6] 

  • It enables positive health-seeking behaviors by increasing knowledge about different aspects of sexuality, behaviors, and risks.
  • Reduce risky sexual behaviors, increase knowledge and use of contraception, and can protect adolescents and young people from HIV by improving attitudes related to SRH.
  • Can reduce adolescent and youth vulnerabilities to violence by promoting bodily integrity, self-confidence and negotiation skills, and gender-equitable norms.

Family planning plays a great role in the advancement of the health and economic status of families, and is, therefore, a central component of a healthy and sustainable society. So, the health workforce is encouraged to use every possible measure to make sure that people are knowledgeable about family planning and contraceptive methods. CSE also plays a vital role as it equips students, especially adolescents with knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values regarding SRH. Medical students are encouraged to deliver messages and continue teaching adolescents about their reproductive Health.

References:

[1]          S. U. Org, “TRANSFORMING OUR WORLD: THE 2030 AGENDA FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT UNITED NATIONS UNITED NATIONS TRANSFORMING OUR WORLD: THE 2030 AGENDA FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT.”

[2]          “Chapter 2 Overview of the Health System in Rwanda.”

[3]          “Policy framework in Tanzania.” [Online]. Available: http://wcaro.unfpa.org/sites/default/files/pub-pdf/

[4]          “Task sharing to improve access to Family Planning/Contraception Summary information Problem.” [Online]. Available: http://www.who.int/healthsystems/TTR-

[5]          V. K. Scott et al., “Community Health Workers Provision of Family Planning Services in Low- and Middle-Income Countries: A Systematic Review of Effectiveness,” 2015. [Online]. Available: https://www.jstor.org/stable/24642150

[6]          “COMPREHENSIVE SEXUALITY EDUCATION (CSE).”

[7]          R. Ijadi-Maghsoodi et al., “Commercially sexually exploited youths’ healthcare experiences, barriers, and recommendations: A qualitative analysis,” 2017.

About the author

IZERE Salomon and SIBOMANA Olivier are two 2nd year medical students at University of Rwanda, college of medicine and health sciences, department of general medicine and surgery. They both are members of Medical Students’ Association of Rwanda (MEDSAR) serving in the standing committee on public health. They are interested in research and public health, and they believe that research is among the best methods to solve global issues.

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