When it comes to doing family planning work in low- and middle-income countries, where there is so much (and so many different types of) work to be done, where do you start? How do you decide where to focus your efforts, or how to make sure you aren’t repeating the same research or offering the same services as another group?
The DRC needs a family planning program that works for all women. Photo: PATH/Georgina Goodwin
In November 2016, PATH partnered with the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Ministry of Health to hold a three-day workshop in Kinshasa that brought together the public, commercial, and private nonprofit sectors to advance a total market approach to family planning. A total market approach is a process that combines the strengths of all marketplace sectors to ensure that women get the supplies and services they need, through the right channels, and at the right price. In the DRC, aligning marketplace sectors can help to solve the inequities in our current system—where many poor women can’t access or afford family planning services. This lack of access contributes in part to the DRC’s high rates of maternal mortality and unmet need for contraception.
There are now more than 300 million women and girls using modern contraception in the world’s 69 poorest countries, with more than 30 million of those users added since 2012. That’s the good news. The more challenging news is that despite this progress, health markets in low- and middle-income countries often operate inefficiently, failing millions of potential family planning (FP) consumers.
Markets are made up of human beings. They are not just emotionless spaces where products and services are bought and sold. This is especially true of the market for family planning products, which ideally provides “...women with a range of options, enabling them to choose for themselves how to best fulfill their individual reproductive intentions” (see Market Shaping for Family Planning, p4). And yet, when mired in theoretical discussions of total market approaches, market dynamics and supply chains, it is all too easy to forget these people within the market. But to ensure a healthy market where a woman can choose the contraceptive method that works best for her, we first must understand what she wants and needs (think human-centered design).
USAID/Washington | Health Development Officer, Office of Population and Reproductive Health, Service Delivery Improvement Division
Total market approach (TMA): A lens for assessing actors and interventions in all three sectors (public, private non-profit, and private for-profit) of the health system. Programs and policies promote and enhance contributions from all sectors and are client-focused.