New Guide Focuses on the Art of Forecasting Demand for Contraceptive Methods
The Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH) and John Snow, Inc. (JSI) recently hosted a webinar showcasing the newly published Forecasting Guide for New & Underused Methods of Family Planning. New and underused methods (NUMs) are those that are new to a global or country market and are currently available for procurement, as well as those not routinely available and not routinely procured. In a particular country, underused technologies include those not available in the country’s family planning program despite their availability in comparable countries. Examples of NUMs globally include female condoms, CycleBeads, IUDs, emergency contraception, and implants.
Demand forecasting is the ongoing process of projecting what quantities of which products should be procured. For NUMs, this process can be particularly difficult. Forecasting errors are not only more common but also more variable for NUMs than for more commonly used methods such as condoms, injectables, and oral contraceptives. Challenges to accurate forecasting for NUMs include the product registration process, manufacturing issues, stockouts, and financing. The authors of the guide pinpoint several common pitfalls in forecasting for NUMs:
- High donor or program aspirations can lead to over-supply, wasted resources, or unmet goals.
- Reluctance to allocate scarce resources to methods whose appeal is uncertain can result in limited method choice.
- Forecasts based on population and need tend to estimate higher demand than the reality.
- Private-sector experience is not necessarily a reliable basis for public-sector projections, but it is often used anyway.
- Regulations and essential medicines or commodity lists can delay availability.
- Weak supply chains can affect consumption as well as demand forecasts.
The hosts of the webinar stressed that the Guide, which includes helpful tips from experts around the world, focuses on the art of forecasting rather than the science of forecasting. The Guide should be used alongside existing forecasting tools. Available in both PDF format and as a K4Health Toolkit, the Guide:
- Presents a framework for building rational assumptions to support accurate forecasting for NUMs. The framework stresses consideration of contextual factors (client, provider, finance, availability) that affect demand, and the guide argues that rigorous assumption-building should be used in lieu of trend data.
- Supports program managers’ efforts to introduce a new contraceptive technology in a country and, if successful, plan for scale-up.
- Offers strategies for avoiding pitfalls in forecasting for NUMs.