Family Planning Workforce

Why does the family planning workforce matter?

Most modern methods of family planning require an interaction with a health worker, and evidence suggests 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.

Key messages

  • Health workers make family planning possible.
  • Frontline health workers can be a driving force behind increasing the use and acceptability of family planning.
  • To increase contraceptive prevalence, countries need to strengthen their family planning health workforces.
  • Task sharing, supported by adapted national guidelines and government commitments, can make family planning services more accessible and efficient.

Synonyms & related terms

These terms are commonly used to cover the same or similar topics.

caregivers

health personnel

health professionals

health manpower

health workers

human resources for health

Overview

The health workforce includes personnel who provide health services, such as doctors, nurses, and community health workers, as well as those who support health services, such as hospital managers and supply chain managers. Supporting the family planning health workforce is essential so that countries can increase contraceptive prevalence rates, reduce unmet need for family planning, and meet the Millennium Development Goals and other targets.

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
  • poor supervision and management for health workers
  • 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 (Malawi Ministry of Health and IntraHealth International, 2010; PDF, 9.94MB), well-trained faculty, and sufficient resources to ensure that the current and future health workforce is well prepared to provide high-quality services.
  • Providing access to and training on the latest reproductive health and family planning guidelines is essential to making sure health workers are able to offer men and women a comprehensive range of contraceptives that meet their needs.
  • Using eLearning and mLearning provides learners with flexible and expanded opportunities for improving their family planning and reproductive health knowledge. For example, an eLearning platform launched in Kenya last year trains pharmaceutical technologists and technicians to manage their resources and supplies to minimize stockouts and overstocks.

Task sharing to expand service delivery

  • Expanding the roles of mid-level providers, such as nurses and clinical officers, to be able to offer some clinical methods like intrauterine devices (IUDs), implants, and male and female sterilization can increase the availability of these methods.
  • Supporting community-based distribution programs and community health workers (Population Council, 2011; PDF, 612KB) has been successful in extending family planning services to clients who might not otherwise seek or have access to health services. For example, Ethiopia, where more than 38,000 (Frontline Health Workers Coalition, 2014; PDF, 313KB) frontline health workers were recently deployed, has seen a four-fold increase in modern contraceptive use between 2005 and 2011.

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 to inform HRH activities can improve interventions and strengthen family planning service provision. At a recent workshop in Monrovia, Liberia, K4Health facilitated working sessions on using data from health information systems to improve family planning service delivery.

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.

Read more about HRH challenges and strategies to engage stakeholders in Transforming the Global Health Workforce (NYU College of Nursing, 2013; PDF, 1.91MB).

Topic last updated: June 18, 2018