By Peter Mutanda, Technical Lead, Quality of Care - IPPF WISH Programme
Today, the world marks World Contraception Day (WCD). Launched in 2007, WCD is a global campaign which envisions that every pregnancy in the world should be wanted. It generates awareness of the different kinds of contraception that women can use.
Ahead of the day, UN experts have issued a statement, reaffirming that “access to family planning and contraception services, free of coercion or impediment, is a component of the right to health that is central to women’s autonomy and agency and key in the realization of women’s rights to equality and non-discrimination, life, sexual and reproductive health rights and other human rights.”
“Every women and adolescent girl has the right to access contraception and family planning services, information and education," the experts added.
The benefits of family planning are well documented, from individual well-being, avoiding unintended pregnancies, enhancing the individual rights to reproductive choices up to the economic dividends associated with optimal family sizes.
The campaign believes that not only women, but also their partners, health care professionals, and other relevant persons, should be as informed about contraception as possible. Many individuals need to modify the type of contraception they use for a number of reasons, which is why they should be aware of the many options available. Furthermore, it promotes the notion of a person’s autonomy over their body. It also aids in the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
The right of all couples and people to choose the number and spacing of their offspring independently and responsibly was stated during the International Conference on Population and Development in 1994, and is embodied in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development within goal 3.7. During the 2012 London Family Planning Summit, world leaders, civil society organizations and leading private and commercial entities made commitments to improve access to contraception. This advocacy effort led to Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), a global call to add 120 million additional contraception users by 2020. Almost a decade later, there have been massive investments to improve access to contraception across the world.
Funded by the UK Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and led by IPPF and MSI Reproductive Choices, the Women's Integrated Sexual Health (WISH) programme is designed to contribute to this global effort. The WISH programme has focused on adding integrated and holistic sexual and reproductive healthcare to 3.3 million additional contraception users in 26 countries across Africa and South Asia. While this target is likely to be surpassed during the project's life, the challenges facing the health systems in these countries are related to the quality of care. Thus, improving reproductive health services delivery is crucial to address reproductive health problems beyond accessing contraception methods.
Improving the delivery and quality of reproductive health services is crucial to attaining global family planning targets. Healthcare has witnessed significant scientific advances and technologies in the past 100 years to achieve a better quality of life.
Healthcare quality improvement involves using appropriate processes to narrow the gap between the existing and expected levels of quality. Similar to the efforts to increase access to contraception choices, improving the quality of care in family planning is not a matter of science alone; it is more about commitments and collective decisions to achieve better experiences in the healthcare settings.
Healthcare services exist to meet the health needs and expectations of clients. Reproductive health services should be designed to meet those needs and expectations. By emphasizing quality of care, we strive to deliver healthcare processes that meet client needs and expectations. Many of us have had a routine check-up at our physician's office, probably an emergency surgery, or visited a sick relative at the hospital. There is increasing evidence of excellent amenities and facilities in healthcare service delivery settings. But we also know of more negative experiences. There are stories of disrespect, crowded clinics, delays in care, ineffective care, misdiagnosis, or sheer abandonment of the healthcare infrastructure by the relevant authorities. Patients are healthcare consumers, and understanding their needs is vital for quality service delivery. While investing in better access to contraception, it is paramount that respectful and dignified care is advanced as a minimum requirement in family planning service delivery.
While ensuring that no one is left behind in accessing reproductive health information and services, the WISH programme has supported the establishment of institutions to govern quality. These include setting up quality improvement teams at management and service delivery levels because leadership structures are essential to guide the implementation of continuous quality improvement in family planning programs.
Through collective efforts, each day, whether service providers or consumers of reproductive health services, we can contribute to better experiences in the healthcare sector.