Kenya Shines Light on FP2020 Data Use

By Ann Biddlecom and Jacob Adetunji
Co-leads, FP2020 Performance Monitoring and Evidence Working Group

Courtesy of Jonathan Torgovnik/Getty Images Reportage

As co-leads of the FP2020’s Performance Monitoring and Evidence (PME) Working Group, it was rewarding to meet in Kenya earlier this month and see the detailed ways that family planning data are being used for decision-making and programming toward Kenya’s FP2020 goals.

The PME Working Group was established in 2012 at the outset of the FP2020 partnership to provide technical advice and support for monitoring progress towards the FP2020 goal of enabling 120 million additional women and girls to use modern contraception by 2020.

Over the last several years, the work of this international group of measurement and evidence experts has formed the backbone of FP2020’s measurement agenda, establishing the core indicators for FP2020, addressing measurement challenges, and ensuring that progress is reported annually to the broader FP2020 community. Now, in 2017, with the family planning community more familiar with FP2020’s data and annual reporting, the group is increasingly focused on how family planning data and evidence are being used at national and subnational levels to accelerate progress and improve programs.

With these objectives in mind, members of the PME Working Group gathered in Nairobi, Kenya in early March for their semi-annual meeting, marking the first time this body has met in an FP2020 focus country.

This group gathered for spirited discussions and debates that ultimately yielded consensus on several issues of importance to family planning indicators. We also met with members of Kenya’s family planning community to explore ways to improve the utilization of family planning data for program and policy decision-making. Some of the highlights of the meeting include:

Robust dialogue with host-country data users and stakeholders: Data users from the Government of Kenya and other stakeholders shared their views on the demand, production and use of family planning data, and how they work with Track20 and other data partners to translate data into information for decision-making. Recent successes they described include: formation of a collaborative measurement group of Kenyan experts to guide national and subnational monitoring of progress; a strong emphasis on data at the county level given the devolution of government in Kenya and resource allocation and other decisions now occurring at this level; and use of a new program tool to help guide family planning program approaches in counties.

Participants included national partners from the Ministry of Health, UNFPA, DFID, the National Council for Population and Development, Track20, PMA2020, Marie Stopes, MEASURE Evaluation, and the Population Council. A key point that emerged from this dialogue is that many countries could learn from Kenya’s national successes, as well as from the challenges the country faces as decisions on health programs are increasingly made at the county level.

Proposal to add contraceptive discontinuation as a new core indicator: After nearly a year of work, the group concluded discussions about measuring contraceptive discontinuation, which is critical for understanding the “churn” in contraceptive use that happens when women and girls start and stop using methods for different reasons over a period of time. While the contraceptive prevalence rate gives a static, cross-sectional, and partial picture of contraceptive behavior, it does not adequately reflect this “churn.” The PME working group proposed a measure of discontinuation and how the information will be reported annually to highlight the dynamics of contraceptive use and the method-related reasons for discontinuation that programs could address. The proposed indicator will be reviewed by the FP2020 Reference Group for approval as a core indicator for inclusion in this year’s progress report.

Clarifying meaning of “additional users” and similar concepts: The group also took an important step to help reduce confusion around commonly-used family planning terminology. For example, the term “new user,” typically used to refer to an individual, is often used interchangeably with the term “additional users,” which is measured at a population level and is central to FP2020’s goal of enabling 120 million additional users of family planning by 2020. The group issued a collective statement to clarify that the term “additional users” refers to the net number of current modern contraceptive users above a specified baseline. In the case of FP2020, the baseline is the number of modern contraceptive users in 2012. The group encourages efforts to further clarify terminology and recommended that related resources and research findings be shared via FP2020’s Measurement Hub.

Advancing measurement: The PME WG continues to provide technical input and support to ongoing efforts to measure the broad economic value of family planning, develop rights-based measures of family planning, improve data on government expenditures on family planning, formulate simple, standardized ways to capture family planning information through service statistics (e.g., DHIS2), call attention to missed opportunities for family planning services (e.g., post-partum; post-abortion; reaching young people); and work with the PMA2020 platform to test new ways of asking survey questions.

The interaction we had with Kenyan counterparts in Nairobi underscored the accelerated progress that can be made when governments take the lead and work with relevant stakeholders to pursue evidence-based policy and program decisions.

As we look toward 2020 and beyond, we are reminded of the broader value of these collective and coordinated efforts to improve data, measures, and the use of evidence on family planning. More than providing a refined picture of progress, these efforts help us all move towards ensuring universal access to family planning and reproductive health services.

Ann Biddlecom is the director of international research at the Guttmacher Institute and previously served as the chief of the fertility and family planning section of the United Nations Population Division.

Jacob Adetunji is a Senior Demographer and Deputy Chief for the Policy, Evaluation and Communication Division in the Office of Population and Reproductive Health, USAID.

Learn more about FP2020’s Performance Monitoring & Evidence Working Group

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