The Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs has been selected to lead the demand generation and communication components of a new five-year USAID-funded initiative to strengthen and improve access to critical health services for families in the Philippines.
CCP will work closely with RTI International, which is leading the new project, the Duke University Global Health Innovation Center and local and national counterparts in the Philippines — primarily the Department of Health, Commission on Population, NGOs, civil society organizations and the private sector.
The program – called ReachHealth – is designed to help communities in the Pacific nation reduce unmet needs for family planning and decrease teen pregnancy rates.
“Our work is to improve healthy behaviors among under-served adolescents, youth, women and men in the Philippines by strengthening and scaling up existing programs there and by introducing state-of-the-art behavioral change interventions to improve their reproductive health seeking behaviors,” says Sanjanthi Velu, senior program officer and team lead at CCP.
Says Susan Krenn, CCP’s executive director: “The goal is to use innovation to move the needle to make it easier for more people to adopt modern contraception – especially among underserved populations and in underserved areas of the country.”
The ReachHealth team will work with the Philippine government and other local and national stakeholders to identify and respond to local root causes of poor family planning and maternal and newborn health outcomes. The team will work to improve individual, household and community knowledge of family planning and maternal and neonatal health; improve decision making about family planning and maternal and newborn health especially among disadvantaged women, men and adolescents; increase access to comprehensive quality care, including lifesaving newborn care, increase the capacity of providers to deliver this care; and strengthen health systems supply, logistics, budgeting and functionality across governance, finance, human resources, and data. The goal will be to increase demand for family planning services and transform social and gender norms.
Velu says a key to changing norms around family planning – to making it more socially acceptable to use modern contraception – is working with communities to find solutions. “There’s a lot that can happen from the ground up,” she says.
According to the 2017 Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) for the Philippines, the use of any method of contraception among married women (age 15-49 years) had increased over a 20-year period from 1993 to 2013, from 40 percent to 55 percent, but has since stagnated at 54 percent in 2017. Since the last DHS in 2013, the use of any modern method of family planning has increased only by two percentage points from 38 percent to 40 percent in 2017. Use also varies wildly by region and is low in many of the remote reaches of the country, something that ReachHealth hopes to remedy.