Health Workers: Key to Family Planning and Reproductive Health

“To talk about sexual and reproductive health, and not to talk about human resources for health—then the equation is not complete,” says Patrick Mugirwa, a program officer with Partners in Population and Development (PPD) Africa Regional Office. “So for PPD to have meaningful advocacy for sexual and reproductive health, of necessity human resources for health must be one of the major components we must advocate for.”

A CapacityPlus associate partner, PPD is an intergovernmental alliance that promotes South-South cooperation toward attainment of the global population and reproductive health agenda for sustainable development.

Incorporating a health workforce perspective
Mugirwa and CapacityPlus staff have worked together to expand PPD’s ability to incorporate health workforce issues into its advocacy. They began by collaborating on a presentation focused on the critical role of health workers in increasing access to family planning and reproductive health services. They shared this information at meetings of the Eastern Africa Reproductive Health Network and the Network of African Parliamentary CommitteesHealth worker inserting an implant on Health (NEAPACOH). In April 2013 NEAPACOH decided that human resources for health will be one of its main focus areas for the next two years. PPD will now advocate for NEAPACOH members to make concrete commitments in this area.

Building capacity
In addition to advocacy, PPD uses other approaches to increase access to family planning and reproductive health services. Mukono District in Uganda serves as just one example: “Mukono District is very grateful to PPD for the capacity-building program,” says Dr. Elly K. Tumushabe, the district health officer. “It enabled Mukono District to mainstream family planning into all district departments and all local governments. Because of this mainstreaming, the district was able to mobilize more resources. All departments committed some money in their workplans and budgets. We have an integrated, consolidated family planning workplan that encompasses all stakeholders, private sector, private partners, and departments.”

Increasing uptake
Dr. Tumushabe continues, “We are now registering high uptake of family planning. When you compare before PPD increased our capacity, our uptake was low, but the moment we increased advocacy and outreaches, the uptake has gone up. We are attributing it to PPD for mainstreaming family planning, for building capacity, and also training health workers.”

Mugirwa concludes, “Whether we talk of human resources for health or sexual and reproductive health, we are really talking about this same issue, because behind every good health outcome there must be numbers behind it—and by numbers here I’m talking about human resources for health.”

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Photo by Carol Bales (Health worker in Mukono District inserting an implant)