Advocacy tool helps Kenya change family planning policy

A nurse at Redemption Hospital explains the facility's options for family planning to UNFPA executive director Babatunde Osotimehin
Copyright: Flickr/ Travis Lupick

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  • Kenya hopes to increase contraceptive use from 46 to 56 per cent by 2015
  • Trained community health workers in Kenya can now give injectable contraceptives
  • The policy could reduce maternal and infant mortality rates, says an official

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[NAIROBI]  A new tool ― called ‘Smart Chart’ ― to promote community-based distribution of injectable contraceptives in Kenya has made the government change its family planning policy, a study says.
The study released yesterday (14 November ) at the International Conference on Family Planning (ICFP 2013) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, says Kenya’s previous efforts to change family planning guidelines to allow community health workers to offer family planning injectables to women seeking services stalled because of a policy that didn’t allow them to  distribute the injectables.
The researchers say the study resulted from a partnership between an international non-profit organisation with a branch in Kenya — called Jhpiego — and Advance Family Planning (AFP), an advocacy initiative to promote sustainable family planning in countries such as Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda.
In November 2011, the two partners implemented the smart chart advocacy approach to increase community-based distribution of injectable contraceptives in Kenya. The team invited policymakers, including leaders of Kenya’s Ministry of Health and other stakeholders such as nursing association representatives to map strategies for increasing use of injectable contraceptives.

“Within the one year of trials, all stakeholders agreed to amend Kenya’s National Family Planning guidelines and allowed community-based distribution of injectable contraceptives.”

Rose Maina, Jhpiego, Kenya

Rose Maina, the study’s lead author and a senior technical officer of Jhpiego, Kenya, says smart chart offers a step-by-step approach to implementing a national policy for community-based distribution of injectable contraceptives. It starts with the goal, helps define concrete planning objectives and ends with a realistic communication plan that is likely to result in a policy change, she adds.
“Not only did this approach result in the policy change sought, it has also laid the foundation for future family planning policy changes in Kenya,” the study says.
Maina tells SciDev.Net:  “With the help of the Nursing Council of Kenya and other medical professional bodies, the government finally agreed to change the policy in November last year that has been blamed for low contraceptive prevalence rate in the country”.

She adds: “Within the one year of trial, all stakeholders agreed to amend Kenya’s National Family Planning guidelines and allowed community-based distribution of injectable contraceptives”.
She notes that for the first time, nonprofessionals gave injections after being trained and continue to offer services successfully with the hope that Kenya will meet its commitment to increasing its contraceptive prevalence rate from 46 to 56 per cent by 2015.
More than 40 community health workers in Taraka district in eastern Kenya were successfully trained to give injectable contraceptives.
“We are currently updating the [community health worker] training curriculum with the aim of incorporating the smart chart tool,” Maina tells SciDev.Net.
Fred Sigor, Kenya’s principal health secretary, says that the government has earmarked KSh 765 million (about US$8.7 million) for family planning services in its current expenditure.
The services, he says, will help reduce infant and maternal mortality rates that contribute to 21 deaths daily from pregnancy related-complications, especially in Kenya’s hard-to-reach regions.
Link to conference abstract
This article has been produced by SciDev.Net's Sub-Saharan Africa desk.