Leveraging chatbots to understand the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on family planning demand

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At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, global advocates expressed concerns about the potential impacts of the pandemic on women’s access to family planning. Estimates at the start of the pandemic indicated that as many as 48 million women could face challenges obtaining their preferred method, resulting in between 7 and 15 million unintended pregnancies (UNFPA 2020; Riley et al. 2020).1

Several supply-side assessments were conducted to estimate which methods would be most affected by the pandemic, better understand supply-side factors contributing to these impacts, and provide recommendations to mitigate supply-chain disruptions. Many of these recommendations were implemented, which has contributed to the smaller-than-anticipated effect on contraceptive use. Abt Associates conducted one such supply-side evaluation to assess the effects of COVID-19 on the family planning supply chain in India with support from the David and Lucille Packard Foundation. The assessment used service statistics from public and private facilities, retail sales data, and social marketing sales reports to identify disruptions along the value chain and inform assumptions to model impact. Key informant interviews with manufacturers, social marketing organizations, commercial product marketers, service-delivery NGOs, implementing partners, and digital health organizations helped reveal root causes of these disruptions. The assessment highlighted the differentiated effects the pandemic has had on access to family planning.