Expanding Integration of Family Planning into Nonhealth Sectors

Photo © Richard Lord

Family planning advocates say that integrating voluntary family planning into nonhealth sector development projects, such as those focused on the environment, livelihoods, or natural resource management, can be a win-win for both sectors, leading to increased contraceptive use and improvements in other development indicators.

Integrated projects are increasingly collecting data to document implementation and results, but there is a need to pull together project findings to evaluate what we know about integrated projects and where gaps still exist.

In 2015, the Evidence Project examined and synthesized the existing available documentation on programs that integrate family planning with nonhealth sector development programs. The synthesis report brings together the published and gray literature on current and past integrated projects and the experiences of implementers in generating a picture of the state of knowledge on integrated family planning projects. Specifically, the synthesis documents what is being measured by integrated projects, the proven benefits of integration, and gaps in the evidence base. Based on this analysis, the synthesis highlights and discusses best practices and challenges for measuring the impact of integrated family planning and nonhealth sector development projects and ways in which projects can fill current gaps in the evidence.

Following publication and dissemination of the synthesis report, the Evidence Project worked with two PHE projects in Madagascar and Tanzania to begin to examine the linkages between family planning and activities in other sectors under the projects, and whether the project activities may contribute to building resilience and helping communities adapt to climate change. The Evidence Project analyzed existing baseline data from both projects; results from the detailed data analysis conducted with the project in Tanzania are summarized in a working paper.

Based on gaps identified in the synthesis report and in existing data from the projects, in 2016 the Evidence Project supported the collection of follow-up quantitative and qualitative data from projects in both countries. The new round of data collection examined knowledge, attitudes, and practices of project communities as they relate to the integration of family planning with nonhealth sectors and to building resilience and adaptation to climate change. In 2017, the Evidence Project plans to conduct and analyze additional qualitative surveys and writing up the results, with the goal of bringing new knowledge to the Population, Health, and Environment (PHE) field about how integrated PHE projects – in particular their family planning activities – contribute to enhancing resilience to climate change.