New Article in Global Health: Science and Practice Shows Improving the Quality of Family Planning Services for Youth Can Increase Contraceptive Use

A health worker provides family planning information at a youth center in Benin. Photo by Trevor Snapp for IntraHealth International.

IntraHealth International staff co-authored a new article, “Implementing Quality Improvement Initiatives to Improve the Use of Adolescent- and Youth-Friendly Health Services in Zou, Benin,” published this month in Global Health: Science and Practice. The field report details how The Challenge Initiative (TCI) helped local health system leaders in Benin assess and improve the quality of family planning and sexual and reproductive health services for young people to enhance contraceptive uptake. 

Read the free article here

TCI, part of a consortium led by the William H. Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, is rapidly and sustainably scaling up proven reproductive health solutions among the urban poor. IntraHealth has led the Francophone West Africa regional hub of TCI since 2016, and has helped cities in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Senegal, and Togo add over 380,000 family planning users. In partnership with the Gates Institute and local municipalities and health leaders, the hub helps cities adapt and scale up high-impact practices and make family planning services more youth-friendly.

Unmet need for family planning is especially high for adolescent girls and youth aged 15-24.

The authors cite that, in Benin, unmet need for family planning is high for all women, and especially for adolescent girls and youth aged 15-24. About 35% of girls and women in this age group do not want to get pregnant but are not using a modern form of contraception. Multiple challenges contribute to their low use of modern contraceptives, including method access and the quality of health services. 

From June 2019-March 2021, TCI supported health districts in Zou, Benin to complete quality assessments at 65 family service delivery points, develop remedial action plans, and follow up with supportive supervision. Despite challenges, including disruptions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the article shows quality improvement initiatives increased the use of contraceptive services for adolescents and youth and offers valuable insights for health workers, policymakers, and researchers. 

Quality improvement initiatives increased the use of contraceptive services for adolescents and youth.

Read how TCI worked with the Zou Department Directorate of Health and a local youth association to implement a simple quality assessment checklist, assess quality, and address concerns—including by training health workers to reduce discriminatory and disrespectful service delivery approaches toward youth seeking services. 

The article offers valuable insights for health workers, policymakers, and researchers engaged in adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSHR). The authors recommend additional research and highlight the need to improve AYSRH data and use. They also recommend institutionalization of quality assessment and improvement initiatives within the local government systems and increased investment in quality improvement strategies to increase the use of family planning services among adolescents and youth. 

IntraHealth staff supporting TCI who co-authored the article include Josephat Avocè, Mamadou Kandji, Hugues Gnahoui, Moussa Faye, and Fatimata Sow. 

The Challenge Initiative is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.