Community Health Workers as Social Marketers of Injectable Contraceptives: A Case Study from Ethiopia

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Ethiopia has made notable progress in increasing awareness and knowledge of family planning and is considered a suc- cess story among funders and program planners. Yet unmet need among rural women (28.6%) is almost double that of urban women (15.5%), with a wide gap in total fertility rate depending on urban (2.6) or rural (5.5) residence. This study investigates the impact of a service delivery model that combines community-based distribution (CBD) of contraception with social marketing in Tigray, Ethiopia, to create a more sustainable approach to CBD. Between September 2011 and October 2013, 626 volunteer CHWs were recruited and trained to administer depot medroxyprogesterone acetate (DMPA) injections and provide counseling and referrals to the health post for other methods; the project implementation period ended in June 2014. The CHWs received a supply of DMPA injections in the form of a microloan from a drug revolving fund; the CHWs charged women a minimal fee (5 birr, or US$0.29), determined based on willingness-to-pay data, for each DMPA injection; and the CHWs returned part of the fee (3 birr) to the drug revolving fund while keeping the remaining portion (2 birr). The CHWs also promoted demand for family planning through door-to-door outreach and community meetings. Existing health extension workers (HEWs) provided regular supervision of the CHWs, supplemented by in-depth supervision visits from study coordinators. Baseline and endline representative surveys of women of reproduc- tive age, as well as of participating CHWs, were conducted. In addition, DMPA provision data from the CHWs were collected. Between October 2011 and June 2014, the CHWs served in total 8,604 women and administered an estimated 15,410 DMPA injections, equivalent to providing 3,853 couple-years of protection. There was a 25% significant increase in contraceptive use among surveyed women, from 30.1% at baseline to 37.7% at endline, with DMPA use largely re- sponsible for this increase. Changes in quality of family planning markers from baseline suggested services improved between baseline and endline: nearly 50% more women reported being told about side effects and what to do if they experience side effects, and 25% more women said they were told about other methods of contraception. The results from household surveys at baseline and endline suggest that CHWs in this model made a significant contribution to family planning in the region.