Building on Angola’s success in promoting healthy pregnancy spacing to save women’s lives, Jhpiego and partners have advanced the use of family planning (FP) through the introduction of contraceptive implants in two of the country’s populous provinces.
At the request of the National Directorate of Public Health, the Strengthening Angolan Systems of Health (SASH) project—known as ForçaSaúde in Portuguese—offered contraceptive implants as a safe and long-acting FP method to women visiting health centers in Luanda and Huambo Provinces in 2012. A pilot project that promoted use of implants had produced less-than-hoped-for results two years before. Mindful of that experience, ForçaSaúde focused on personalized FP counseling, skills-based training of providers, clinical practice with supervised implementation and community support to ensure providers carry their skills training forward.
In nine months, more than 6,000 women received implants from the newly trained providers; the 2010 pilot project had provided implants to 451 women in the same time frame.
ForçaSaúde is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Jhpiego and partner Management Sciences for Health. They have been working collaboratively with the Ministry of Health and other government entities to strengthen health services for FP, malaria, prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and HIV counseling and testing. The project’s goal has been to strengthen the capacity of Angolan health leaders, supervisors and providers to manage and implement services of quality that will reduce maternal and newborn mortality.
A key element of this FP project was a series of radio interviews that aired on two stations in Huambo Province: Radio Mas and Radio Huambo. These stations, which collectively reach most of the province’s population, shared with thousands of listeners the personal experiences of women who had decided to use modern FP methods such as contraceptive implants to space their births in a healthy manner. Interviews were conducted with these women who were candid in their answers to the following questions:
- Why did you choose to use FP methods?
- How many children do you have and why do you want to use FP?
- Why did you choose one method over another and what are the advantages of it compared to the others?
As one young mother explained, her parents offered to take care of her two young children if she would go to school and study for a career. She needed to be protected during these five years in order to accomplish this goal. Other women stated that they already had six or seven children and needed an easy way to prevent further pregnancies to protect their health. Responses like these were informative and inspiring to other women.
The radio interviews also reached many men and allowed them to become good partners in referral for use of FP methods. Many of the women visiting the new FP services were referred by their husbands, who had sent them after hearing about contraceptive implants on the local news or radio.
These experiences in Huambo and Luanda demonstrate Angolan women’s understanding of the benefits that can come from FP and their desire to use modern FP methods. Thanks to the Angolan health authorities, the ForçaSaúde project and USAID funding, more women are aware of and adopting healthy pregnancy spacing.
Increased FP use over the past eight years (from 6 percent to 17.7 percent), along with the well-received introduction of contraceptive implants, has given the Angolan Ministry of Health and the National Directorate of Public Health confidence that increased use of FP methods will significantly lower maternal mortality in Angola.