Family Planning Programs for the 21st Century: Rationale and Design

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Chapter Four – Family planning communication programs – discusses the importance of behavior change communication campaigns to educate the general population and motivate potential users to adopt family planning. A vital part of the success of voluntary family planning programs is promoting the benefits of contraception to women, their partners, and communities. Behavior change communication (BCC) programs – disseminated via mass media, community-level events, interpersonal communication/counselling, and electronic media – increase awareness and acceptance of contraception by encouraging individuals to look to a better future and promoting family planning as one means to that end. They provide factual information on types of contraceptive methods, safety, sources of supply, and management of side effects. Communication programs dispel myths and misconceptions in an effort to overcome barriers to use. Finally, BCC programs aim to motivate individuals to action: to discuss family planning with their spouse or partner, visit a clinic or community worker, and initiate use of a contraceptive method when pregnancy is not desired. The most effective programs employ the principles of strategic communication. They use multiple channels with mutually reinforcing messages tailored to specific segments of the audience. Formative research, monitoring, and evaluation guide the process and offer indications of potential mid-course corrections needed, and provide evidence of effectiveness.

Studies have shown that these campaigns can increase:

  1. demand for services at clinics,
  2. knowledge of modern family planning methods,
  3. partner communication about family planning,
  4. approval of family planning, and
  5. Use of modern contraceptive methods.

Today, programs are employing new strategies and technologies to stay relevant. For example, many programs are combining family planning communication with other critical health services, such as HIV prevention or adolescent health programs. Programs are also using cell phone and internet technology to reach their target audience.

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