Family planning advocates can help ensure that a country’s policies and funding promote access to DMPA-SC and self-injection along with other contraceptive options so women can make an informed and voluntary choice.
Decision-makers need to advance relevant approvals and policies to introduce or scale up DMPA-SC and self-injection, alongside integration in guidelines, training materials, logistics management systems, and health monitoring and information systems. Advocacy tools and approaches are available here to guide development of an advocacy strategy and action plan that speaks to your country context. Materials are also available to create compelling and accurate messaging and public outreach.
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Ministry of Health authorizes only physicians and nurses to give injections, with one exception-medical and nursing students may also give injections if supervised by a clinical instructor. The emergence of the injectable contraceptive Sayana Press in some African countries prompted the DRC to test the acceptability and feasibility of distributing Sayana Press and other contraceptive methods at the community level through medical and nursing students. Sayana Press is similar in formulation to the injectable contraceptive Depo-Provera but contains a lower dose and is administered subcutaneously using a single-use syringe with a short needle called the Uniject system. The Uniject system allows Sayana Press to be administered by community health workers without clinical training or by self-injection. In this pilot, the advocacy objective was to obtain approval from the Ministry of Health to allow medical and nursing students to inject Sayana Press, as a first step toward authorization for community health workers to provide the method. The pilot described in this article documents a process whereby an innovative approach moved from concept to implementation to replication in less than 2 years. It also paved the way for testing additional progressive strategies to increase access to contraception at the community level. Because the pilot project included a research component designed to assess benefits and challenges, it provided the means to introduce the new task-shifting approach, which might not have been approved otherwise. Key pilot activities included: (1) increasing awareness of Sayana Press among family planning stakeholders at a national conference on family planning, (2) enlisting the support of key decision makers in designing the pilot, (3) obtaining marketing authorization to distribute Sayana Press in the DRC, (4) implementing the pilot from July to December 2015, (5) conducting quantitative and qualitative studies to assess acceptability and feasibility, and (6) disseminating the findings to family planning stakeholders. Before the pilot, Sayana Press was relatively unknown in the DRC, and there was no precedent for medical and nursing students providing family planning methods or giving injections at the community level. In less than 12 months, the approach gained legitimacy and acceptance. The key Ministry of Health decision maker orchestrated the closing session of the dissemination meeting on next steps, paving the way for pilot tests of 3 new task-shifting approaches: insertion of Implanon NXT by medical and nursing students, self-injection for Sayana Press with supervision by students, and injection of Sayana Press by community health workers with no formal clinical training.