[Cross-pollinated on the K4Health Blog
during the International Family Planning Conference in Kampala, Uganda]
As the International Conference on Family Planning: Research and Best Practices gets underway in Kampala, Uganda, it’s important to remember that to increase family planning (FP) worldwide, information needs to be shared and exchanged among program managers and health service providers working on the front lines. It’s important because many times, the information they do receive is often duplicative, out-of-date, or not relevant to the local needs and context – which is where the USAID-supported Knowledge for Health (K4Health) project comes in.
At K4Health, we strongly believe that Web-based and mobile technologies have the potential to bring researchers, organizations, and health professionals at the global level together with managers and providers at the local and community levels. Together, we can help an estimated 200 million couples with unmet FP needs.
As part of our global needs assessment, the K4Health project conducted a survey of over 800 health professionals from 110 countries and identified the top key information needs, which include adolescent reproductive health, integrating FP with maternal and child health, community-based family planning services, and integrating FP with HIV/STI care and prevention. Three additional program management topics also were identified as important, including evidence-based programming, behavior change communication, and staff training, supervision, and motivation.
The survey also identified the main barriers to accessing and using health information. The sheer amount of information available is the most cited barrier to accessing useful knowledge. To put things into perspective, a Google search on “Adolescent Reproductive Health” identified 429,000 results. The same search on the Reproductive Health Gateway – one of K4Health’s products – which searches 140 reproductive health sites brings back a more focused and manageable 320 results.
K4Health also provides a series of toolkits that are collaboratively developed online by international family planning organizations and health professionals. Toolkit partners select the best tools, essential knowledge, policies, guides, and job aids on a reproductive health topic and compile them in the “virtual toolkits” so that the information is made easy to find and easy to use. Toolkits also have discussion boards that enable users to provide feedback to identify missing resources, suggest new material, and share information with each other.
Family Planning program staff in-country will be able to take the global information and adapt it to specific needs and context, put the toolkits on CD-ROMs for expanded reach, and when necessary, print out tools for service providers at the community level. Our virtual exchange and distance eLearning courses also are used to provide information on specific topics to a broad audience of health service providers.
We believe that by putting these knowledge management products and services into practice will result in more use of relevant evidence-based information and reduce duplication of effort—a big step in harnessing knowledge to increase FP where it is most needed, on the front lines.