Easy Access to Services

Easy access to family planning services through a variety of delivery points—clinics, community-based channels, private practices, or mobile or temporary facilities—helps both existing and potential clients use family planning and obtain help when the need it. 

The farther people have to travel for services, the less likely they are to use family planning. Apart from convenient locations, outlets should be free of unnecessary restrictions on who can be served. National-level supportive policies can eliminate barriers, such as age requirements or parity, spousal consent, or married status.

At the service delivery level, good training and simple job aids and tools can reduce common medical barriers and facilitate evidence-based practices. Checklists are available for nearly every method. They help providers apply the WHO Medical Eligibility Criteria and avoid outdated or incorrect criteria. See Family Planning: A Global Handbook for Providers, which includes checklists that providers can use to be reasonably certain their clients are not pregnant so they can provide hormonal methods and IUDs to women even if they are not having monthly bleeding.  Offering family planning information and services at key times, such as to postpartum women in delivery facilities, also increases access.

Multiple Channels Increase Access

Family planning services can be offered through:

  • Clinics (public, NGO, or private)—the main delivery system in most countries. Most government and NGO family planning programs provide clinic-based services that are free or at very low cost to users. Convenient hours of service and short waiting times are important for good access.
  • Community-based distribution (CBD)—where residents of a community are trained to provide family planning within their own communities. CBD is useful in sub-Saharan Africa where nearly 7 of every 10 people live in rural areas. For more information about community-based family planning, see the K4Health Community-Based Family Planning Toolkit.
  • Private-sector providers—usually in business for themselves and serve those who can afford to pay. Many people choose private-sector providers and services because of perceived higher quality, greater privacy, and shorter waits.
  • Mobile or temporary facilities—sometimes used in hard-to-reach communities. Some mobile clinics are equipped to provide long-acting and permanent methods—implants, IUDs, and male and female sterilization—in addition to supply methods, such as oral contraceptive pills and condoms.
  • Private-sector retail outlets—such as pharmacies, drug shops, and kiosks that sell condoms and oral contraceptives, either at subsidized prices through social marketing or at full retail cost.

Many programs use a mix of service delivery points to make methods available to all potential users.              

Expanding the Role of the Private Sector

Strengthening the private-sector benefits everyone, including public-sector programs. For example, the private sector may have the capacity to handle increases in demand that could overwhelm public facilities. It also means that the public-sector can focus on serving more poor clients. In most countries the primary private-sector sources of modern contraceptives are pharmacies, shops, private hospitals, and private clinics.

Various approaches have strengthened private-sector family planning—for example, branding, as in the case of Indonesia’s Blue Circle program and franchising, as in the Philippines’ Friendly Care clinics. Social marketing uses retail outlets and private providers to sell branded products and services at subsidized prices that are set to maximize use. They are also marketed as ordinary consumer products, which decreases stigma and makes them more appealing.