Family Planning Workforce
Why does the family planning workforce matter?
Most modern methods of family planning require an interaction with a health worker, and studies consistently show that people are more likely to trust health information provided by a health worker than any other source. A well-trained, qualified, and motivated health workforce is needed to provide family planning counseling and services at all levels of the health system.
- Cadre: A category of health worker or group of health workers specially trained for a particular purpose or profession: physicians, midwives, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, clinical officers, laboratory technicians, etc.
- Human resources for health (HRH): Also known as the health workforce, HRH includes all people primarily engaged in actions with the primary intent of enhancing health.
- Task sharing: Sometimes called task shifting, task sharing involves training cadres of health workers—such as clinical officers, auxiliary nurses, and CHWs—to deliver some services typically offered by cadres with longer, more intensive training—such as physicians—in order to further the reach of a limited health workforce.
The health workforce includes personnel who provide health services, such as doctors, nurses, and community health workers (CHWs), as well as those who support health services, such as hospital managers and supply chain managers. The family planning health workforce is a key to ensuring that everyone has access to the health care and contraceptives they need to plan their families and lives. The health workforce is essential to helping countries increase contraceptive prevalence rates, reduce unmet need for family planning, and meet their FP2020 commitments and other national and global goals, including the Sustainable Development Goals.
Challenges that plague the health workforce, or human resources for health (HRH), include the following:
- Health worker shortages
- Uneven distribution between urban and rural areas
- Imbalances in the skills mix of health workers
- Training that is misaligned with population needs
- Bias and misconceptions among health workers and clients about family planning
- Poor health worker supervision and management
- Lack of health workforce data to inform policies and strategies
The good news is that stakeholders have found some solutions to mitigate HRH challenges. These include improving education and training for health workers, task-sharing, increasing access to and use of data, and promoting gender equality.
Improving health worker development
- Strengthening pre-service and in-service training for health workers can improve the quality of family planning service delivery. Health training institutions need up-to-date curricula, well-trained faculty, and sufficient resources to ensure that the current and future health workforce is well prepared to provide high-quality services.
- Access to and training on the latest reproductive health and family planning guidelines is essential to making sure health workers are able to offer clients a comprehensive range of contraceptives to meet their needs.
- Digital learning provides flexible and expanded opportunities for improving learners' family planning and reproductive health knowledge. For example, an eLearning platform program in Kenya capitalized on the expansion of mobile phones to offer health workers refresher training on family planning and reproductive health.
Task sharing to expand service delivery
- Expanding the roles of health workers, such as nurses and clinical officers, to offer some clinical methods traditionally offered by physicians, like intrauterine devices (IUDs), implants, and sterilization, can increase the availability of these methods.
- Supporting community-based distribution programs and community health workers has been successful in extending family planning services to clients who might not otherwise seek or have access to health services.
Increasing access to and use of data
- Tracking health workforce data using health information systems can help illustrate health worker shortages, training needs, and other information that can be used to improve service delivery.
- Using high-quality data and evidence from user testing to inform HRH and family planning activities can improve interventions and strengthen family planning referrals and services.
Promoting gender equality
Addressing the gender norms and inequalities that influence both the operations of the health workforce and the provision of family planning services can improve service quality and access to family planning.