Family planning has never received the required attention of frontline workers such as auxiliary nurses and midwives, sahiyas and anganwadi workers in the state, as the choices it presents are either not known or not accepted by a majority of people in rural areas.
State health department principal secretary K. Vidyasagar said this during the inaugural session of a stakeholders’ dissemination and strategy meeting on Improving Access to Family Planning on Tuesday, organised by the Jharkhand Rural Health Mission and FHI 360, a non-profit human development organisation.
The meeting aimed to discuss a study conducted by FHI on men’s involvement in family planning and recommendations for integration of the process and immunisation services to induce greater participation.
FHI 360 had begun its “Family Planning and immunisation integration project” in response to a baseline assessment conducted in Lohardaga in 2011.
It was observed that women in the extended postpartum period (the 12 months following childbirth) often do not use family planning method resulting in short intervals between births.
In order to test how men’s involvement will impact on family planning, a project was conducted in Deoghar by FHI 360 in partnership with the Network for Enterprise Enhancement and Development Support (NEEDS) in 2012.
During the year-long project, 38 peer educators conducted sessions with men on family planning. The intervention was piloted in 38 villages and data collected from 450 men.
The study showed that the intervention had directly impacted upon 450 men and altogether 600 families, as the men later talked to friends or kin regarding family planning.
Vidyasagar pointed out that although National Rural Health Mission had its presence in Jharkhand, family planning had not received adequate attention.
“Family planning is being given least priority in Jharkhand. It is disturbing that it is not promoted through counselling and during Village Health Nutrition Day and other activities.”
Village Health Nutrition Day, observed on a monthly basis, is a convergence of the health and social welfare departments. State rural health mission director A.B. Siddiqui said that a growing population had led to poverty and lack of development.
He pointed out that both male and female sterilisation had not achieved desired results, while calling for stabilisation of population growth.
“Awareness in rural areas is absent. Though Village Health Nutrition Day is held regularly, counselling on family planning is not seen. The study has revealed what we are aware of. It is thus important to know why family planning is given least priority and why the frontline workers do not counsel,” added Siddiqui.
A standard operating procedure, IPC (inter-personal communication) and IEC (information, education and communication) material on how to integrate family planning and immunisation services effectively were released on the occasion.