Accessibility and uptake of modern contraceptive methods in Pakistan - a critical view on what works?

Document Type



Obstetrics and Gynaecology (East Africa); Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health


Background: In Pakistan, there is a clear imbalance between the population's needs and available resources to cater for spacing and limiting childbirth as desired by couples. More than two-thirds (70%) of the Pakistani population are now paying out-of-pocket for overall health costs. Public sector in South Asia is the main player in service provision, Pakistan, however, is unique where private sector is more significant a player in the provision of Family Planning services. The increasing reliance on the private sector is particularly prominent in rural areas where more than 30% of public sector-owned first-level care facilities are located. This critical review is guided by the aim to increase access and utilization of modern contraceptives in the underserved Pakistan. The research question explores the effects of multi-pronged health financing model "using vouchers" for increase in contraceptive access and uptake among married women in rural Pakistan.

Methods: Keeping in view on paucity of literature, this review comprised studies that were published inclusive and after 2000 on implementation research on family planning. The international scientific databases searched included PubMed, SCOPUS, and MEDLINE until December 2016. Related articles were found using key terms and based on a review of the titles and abstracts of the published papers, a total of eight published studies met the criteria and were included for this review.

Results: This critical review of key private sector intervention demonstrated that the use of multi-pronged health financing mechanisms targeting underserved communities such as 1) using demand-side free vouchers complemented by mid-level social franchise providers along with community health worker support to connect clients with facility and 2) using public sector trained community midwives and engaging a dedicated community health worker with them to generate demand and bridge the gap between clients with the local facility (financing CMW trainings and CHW salaries; and 3) expanding outreach services to reach out to underserved communities (financing free services) - has a positive and favourable impact. The findings show that free vouchers used alongside social franchising (multi-pronged health financing model) was able to increase the overall contraceptive uptake and also increased method specific uptake mainly for intrauterine device (IUD) and condoms in the intervention group in three different studies. Additionally, there was a favourable impact on IUD discontinuation rates (which is significantly found lower than the national average) and improved method switching during intervention and in the post-intervention period in the voucher based social franchising and outreach mobile services clients of four studies.

Conclusions: The multi-pronged health financing mechanisms exclusive to FP not only were able to increase the uptake of modern FP services in underserved areas but also facilitated the long-term continuity of modern FP methods, while promoting method-specific switching behaviour. The models, using voucher based social franchising, community midwives coupled by CHWs, and the outreach services have a tangible effect on modern family planning uptake within communities. It has been documented that the provision of evidence-based interventions and care packages especially for the rural population reaching broad coverage (including approaches to promote post-abortion care; antenatal and postnatal care including family planning services) can contribute averting maternal, new-born and child deaths in Pakistan, and furthermore, a large proportion of stillbirths possibly could also be prevented.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Journal of Pakistan Medical Association