July 11 is World Population Day, an international observance of the importance of population issues. This year, it shares the date with Family Planning 2020’s Family Planning Summit in London, England.
Despite millions of people gaining access to family planning and reproductive health services in recent years, according to Family Planning 2020, the world still lags behind our shared goals.
Our continued challenges to expand access to and ensure the quality of modern contraceptives show that this is more than just a numbers game.
We need to look beyond supply levels and advocacy toward the soft skills that can enable or hinder service delivery.
In 2015, High Impact Practices for Family Planning published the Leaders and Managers: Making family planning programs work brief that laid out the role leadership, management, and governance capacity play in enabling successful family planning programs.
Since then, the USAID-funded Leadership, Management, and Governance (LMG) Project has further explored the connection between these soft skills and service delivery performance and developed resources to support health workers and health organizations.
Leadership Development for Postpartum Family Planning
In Cameroon, we collaborated with the USAID-funded Evidence to Action Project to study the value add of a Leadership Development Program Plus (LDP+) to a postpartum family planning clinical training.
While the full study results are available, key findings indicated that improving health workers’ leadership and management skills could help promote service delivery improvements simply through changes in team dynamics and interpersonal skills.
(Photo: Julius Kasujja)
Reproductive Health Uganda
We have worked with our consortium partner the International Planned Parenthood Federation to support their member associations in sub-Saharan Africa with leadership, management, and governance programs.
In Uganda, the LMG Project has partnered extensively with Reproductive Health Uganda (RHU) to support their essential sexual and reproductive health services with programs like the LDP+ and Business Planning for Health.
Raymond Ruyoka, an RHU facilitator, was skeptical about the value of leadership, management, and governance training. He said, “I was not aware about how one person could change or transform things.”
But his skepticism quickly evaporated after he completed the LDP+. “The attitude change…” he said, “…it has made me look farther… and recognize that you can make things move, not only you, but empower others to make things move.”
Public health approaches will not be enough to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health, and one of our newest resources, the Governance Roadmap for Sexual and Reproductive Health, can help policy makers, program designers and implementers, and public health practitioners recognize where governance barriers lie.
This roadmap is a practical guide that forces deep thinking to identify governance actions specifically tailored for challenges in family planning and reproductive health.
Enabling Universal Access
Many people and organizations already recognize that access to family planning and reproductive health services will have an outsized impact on the ability to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, and that leaders and managers enable effective family planning programs.
So, today, tomorrow, and in the days after, we should harness the momentum of the moment and recommit to ensuring universal access to family planning and reproductive health services.