“A practical alternative to calculating unmet need for family planning,” a new article authored by Susan Igras and Rebecka Lundgren of Georgetown University’s Institute for Reproductive Health and Irit Sinai of Palladium Group and published in the Open Access Journal of Contraception, suggests that using a new approach to assessing unmet need for family planning can contribute to the design of programs that will make behavior change more likely.
The standard approach to family planning need categorizes women as having met need, unmet need, or no need based on their responses to a series of Demographic and Health Surveys questions.
In Mali and Benin, Tékponon Jikuagou aimed to understand why individuals do not use modern family planning methods despite wanting to avoid pregnancy. In the course of the research, it became apparent that a more nuanced approach — one that considered individuals’ perceptions of need — was required.
The Tékponon Jikuagou approach assumes that a woman’s actual physiological need for family planning is less likely to impact her behavior than her perception of need. With this in mind, Tékponon Jikuagou tested a series of seven questions as a supplement to the standard questionnaire and categorized respondents in five “current-need status groups.”
- Real met need – women currently using a modern method
- Perceived met need – women who are using an ineffective or less effective method
- Real no need – women who want to conceive, are currently pregnant, or can not conceive
- Perceived no need – women who mistakenly think they can not conceive
- Perceived unmet need – women who know that they are at risk of pregnancy and do not want to be pregnant, yet are not using any family planning method
“This work is important because it demonstrates empirically the importance of taking into account the perspectives of program beneficiaries, rather than viewing their needs through our own assumptions,” said Dr. Rebecka Lundgren, article author and Tékponon Jikuagou’s principal investigator. “For example, a breastfeeding woman who believes she is not able to get pregnant won’t likely pay attention to messages about family planning services.”
Learn more about Tékponon Jikuagou.