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Accessing Contraception and Why It Matters: Findings from 36 Countries

Family planning is vital to achieving better health outcomes for women and their families. The USAID-funded, Abt-led SHOPS Plus Project supports numerous family planning efforts in multiple countries. So what happens to family planning efforts when the world is struggling with a pandemic?

“The COVID-19 pandemic is creating unprecedented challenges in each country’s contraceptive market related to supply chains, overwhelmed health systems, social distancing, and economic downturns,” says Abt’s Sarah Bradley, SHOPS Plus global research director and co-author of a new analysis of sources for contraception in 36 low- and middle-income countries. “Now, more than ever, it is critical for the public and private sectors to collaborate and create flexible solutions to respond to these new—and rapidly evolving—challenges.”

To help countries develop data-driven solutions, SHOPS Plus analyzed data from the most recent Demographic and Health Survey since 2012 from all USAID Population and Reproductive Health and Family Planning 2020 focus countries. The study examined contraceptive sources and how they varied by method, geography, age, marital status, and socioeconomic status. In the resulting report, the authors share potential implications related to contraceptive equity, sustainability, method choice, and policy.

Among the findings: one in three modern contraceptive users obtained their method from a private source, one out of every four rural modern contraceptive users get their method from the private sector, and more than half of pill and condom users obtain their method from a private source. This last point is particularly relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic, as pills and condoms are the only modern methods that can be obtained under social distancing because they do not require physical contact with a health provider. Understanding sources of contraception is therefore key for government stakeholders, program implementers, and donors to continue to improve contraceptive access, equity, and choice, both during the pandemic and beyond.

The resulting report serves as a companion to a series of 21 country briefs published in late 2019 that show where women go for contraception. Two interactive data visualization tools, Private Sector Counts and Family Planning Market Analyzer, offer a more in-depth look at the data for family planning program managers and policy makers.

Bradley and her co-author, Tess Shiras, shared their findings and discussed what they mean for family planning program managers, donors, and policy makers in a webinar on May 7. A recording is also available here.

Latin America & the Caribbean
South & Central Asia
Sub-Saharan Africa
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