The challenge and how this guide will help

Consider this scenario…

The Ministry of Health (MOH) in your country, in an effort to address high unmet need for family planning, has committed to expanding family planning options for women and couples by adding a new method to public sector programs nationwide. The first order of business is ordering an initial stock of the commodity. When the forecasting committee convenes its annual quantification meeting to decide how many contraceptives, by method, will be procured for programs in the coming year, the new method on the list poses a distinct challenge. With no past usage data to support quantification, how should the committee forecast demand? Funds are limited, so the committee wants to ensure they don’t over-order.  On the other hand, avoiding stockouts is equally important. How should the committee approach forecasting for this new method?

How this guide will help…

This guide provides instructions for public- and private-sector programs that are grappling with this challenge—forecasting for new and underused methods (NUMs) (see Box 1) of family planning when there is limited historical data. It is designed to support program managers and others involved in forecasting as they plan to (1) introduce a contraceptive technology for the first time in a country, and/or (2) position an underused method for scale up.

Box 1: What are NUMs?

New and underused methods of family planning (NUMs) are methods that are either:

  • New to a global or country market, and currently available for procurement; or
  • Underused, as in not routinely available in the public, private, or social marketing sectors, and not routinely procured by the major procurers. In country settings, underused methods are not present in that country's reproductive health program, despite their presence in a comparable country's reproductive health program.

High quality, effective NUMs can expand choice in a reproductive health and family planning program, add value to the method mix, and respond to the needs of the clients (RHSC 2011).

If a method—such as the IUD, implants, CycleBeads®, female condoms, or the emergency contraception pill (ECP)—is new (or at least new to a catchment area), then historical data may not exist; and, if it does, it may not be useful as a basis for predicting consumption. This does not mean that programs that introduce NUMs must rely on guess work.  In a resource-scarce environment, there is no money to waste on over-supply, nor can programs fail to meet their clients’ needs for suitable methods. While assumptions must be made about procuring the right quantity of NUMs, they should be informed assumptions.

This guide offers a framework for building rational assumptions to increase the accuracy of forecasting for NUMs, or indeed, for any family planning commodity where future demand is inherently difficult to predict. The guide recognizes that accurate forecasts take into account the larger system into which the NUM will be introduced and scaled. It also identifies common pitfalls in NUMs forecasting and recommends strategies to avoid them.