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Exploring Contraceptive Use Differentials in Sub-Saharan Africa through a Health Workforce Lens

Globally, 56% of all married women are using a modern method of contraception, up from less than 10% in 1960. In sub-Saharan Africa, however, only 19% of married women are using a modern method of contraception. Since nearly all family planning services require assistance from a health worker, access to health workers is a principal supply-side determinant of family planning service use. This technical brief presents findings from a study that explored if and how health workforce measures differ between eastern and western Africa, in an effort to identify factors that may have helped some countries to achieve important gains in contraceptive prevalence while other countries have not. The findings raise questions about whether government commitment and certain policy choices vis-à-vis health workforce distribution and qualifications—even when absolute levels of health worker density are low—could make a difference in the provision of family planning services in resource-constrained countries.