Contraception: Digital space key to addressing unmet family planning needs

A couple browses on tips of family planning on their phone. [Getty Images]

In Kenya, access to modern contraception remains a significant challenge, particularly among young people and marginalised populations. According to the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (KDHS) 2014, the national contraceptive prevalence rate (CPR) was only 58 per cent, with significant disparities across regions and populations. The unmet need for family planning was estimated at 18.4 per cent, further highlighting the need for innovative approaches to increase access to contraception.

Digital platforms, including mobile phone applications and social media, have the potential to address the unmet need for contraception in Kenya by providing information, education, and access to modern family planning methods. For instance, in 2018, the Kenyan Ministry of Health launched a mobile application called TIBA YAKO, which provides information on sexual and reproductive health, including contraception. The app allows users to locate nearby health facilities where they can access family planning services.

Similarly, the Family Planning Voices initiative, launched in 2015, uses social media to share stories and experiences of individuals and communities around the world who have benefited from family planning. The initiative has a strong presence in Kenya, where it uses Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness about the importance of family planning and to provide information on available methods.

The Hesperian mobile app is another accessible app that offers accurate and trusted reproductive health information, which communities have relied on for years. SemaBox is yet another platform which uses mobile phone technology to distribute short audio messages on sexual and reproductive health, including family planning. The initiative targets young people in rural and hard-to-reach areas who may not have access to traditional sources of information on sexual and reproductive health.

Generally, these digital platforms have the potential to reach large numbers of people and provide them with valuable information and resources related to family planning. However, there are also challenges associated with their use. For instance, access to mobile phones and internet connectivity remains a significant barrier in many parts of Kenya, particularly among marginalised populations. Additionally, there may be concerns around privacy and data security, particularly when it comes to collecting and storing personal information related to sexual and reproductive health.

To address these challenges, it will be essential to work with communities and stakeholders to ensure that digital platforms are accessible, user-friendly, and culturally appropriate. This may include providing training and support to healthcare providers, community health workers and peer educators to ensure they can effectively promote and use these platforms.

Digital platforms have the potential to play a significant role in addressing the unmet need for contraception in Kenya by providing information, education, and access to modern family planning methods.

Ms Kathia is a sexual and reproductive health rights youth advocate for NAYA. [email protected]