More than six decades after the introduction of the first oral contraceptive pill, access to modern contraception has transformed the lives of millions of people around the world. By empowering individuals with the ability to choose whether, when, and how many children to have, modern contraception has improved global health and well-being—protecting the health of mothers and children, advancing gender equality, and accelerating progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals [PDF, 3MB]. Throughout its history, USAID has supported access to contraceptives by investing in the development of nearly every modern contraceptive method on the market, providing leadership on high-impact practices for family planning, and investing in cutting-edge programming to holistically improve access to a broad range of contraceptives and family planning.
On September 26, USAID joins the world in celebrating World Contraception Day and recognizing the impact of contraceptives on the health and well-being of all individuals. Here are some recent family planning game changers that are worth celebrating today.
Game Changer #1: Advancing Self-Care with DMPA-SC
Self-care is at the forefront of the future of family planning. DMPA-SC (also known as Sayana® Press) is a self-injectable contraceptive that provides three months of contraceptive protection per dose. USAID supported the development of DMPA-SC, and in collaboration with partners, rapidly scaled-up the availability of this method worldwide. In addition to its effectiveness and longevity, DMPA-SC is shown to be easily self-administered without the support of a healthcare provider and can help women in remote regions—and those who face barriers to accessing regular care—plan healthy and well-spaced pregnancies.
Game Changer #2: Increasing Affordable Access to the Hormonal IUD
The hormonal intrauterine device (hormonal IUD) is one of the most effective forms of reversible contraception and is associated with a number of important non-contraceptive health benefits, including treatment for heavy menstrual bleeding, uterine fibroids, and potentially anemia. In April 2021, USAID added the hormonal IUD to the USAID product catalog for the first time. While this contraceptive method has been popular in Europe and the United States for over 20 years, it has not been widely available in low- to middle-income countries, primarily due to its cost. By negotiating a price reduction with the manufacturers, USAID will help ensure that the hormonal IUD is affordable for programming in partner countries.
Game Changer #3: Creating Digital Platforms / Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) Approaches
Young people are more tech savvy than ever, and thanks to smartphones and digital platforms, information is available at our fingertips. Game of Choice, Not Chance harnesses enthusiasm for digital platforms with mobile gaming technology that engages, empowers, and educates adolescents. A game-based, story-driven model invites users to role-play in a safe virtual environment, experience the power of their choices, access resources and information, and make healthy decisions about their sexual and reproductive health—all without leaving home! This direct-to-consumer approach brings accurate information to game users outside of the health system—helping overcome barriers to care, such as provider stigma, or services that do not address youth needs.
Game Changer #4: Leveraging Intelligent Forecasting for Supply Chains
In many of the countries where USAID works, stockouts of health products can disrupt consumer access to contraceptives. Recently, USAID ran a prize competition to develop high-performing intelligent forecasting models that predicted the consumption of contraceptives in Côte d'Ivoire, and later awarded a grant to Macro-Eyes to customize their forecasting model to accurately predict how much contraceptive product each health clinic in the Côte d'Ivoire system will need in the future. Through the use of machine learning, these “intelligent” forecasting models can help save money, reduce waste, and improve access to family planning by ensuring that clinics have adequate supplies of contraceptives for all who need them, when they need them.
USAID and our partners know that access to contraceptives can be a game changer in people’s lives. Yet, more than 218 million women and girls in low- and-middle income countries are not using modern methods of contraception, and many young people and communities that are vulnerable to disruptions in services continue to face challenges in accessing the care they need. Through strategic investments in self-care, digital technology, and other innovative programming, USAID is helping countries meet the contraceptive and family planning needs of all their people. Our investments focus on comprehensive approaches to ensure that all individuals can make informed decisions about their health, and have the agency to act on those decisions. Today, we celebrate the results and the potential of these investments and recognize that contraceptives can be a game changer for people’s lives!