At Marie Stopes International (MSI), we often cite the staggering number of women - about 225 million globally – who want to delay or stop having children, but are not using contraception. Every day, we strive to address the many different barriers that lead to a woman going without contraception. One crucial aspect of ensuring that women can have children by choice, not chance is providing them with comprehensive contraceptive counseling so they can decide what method fits best with their lifestyle.
In many of the 37 countries where MSI works, fear, anxiety and health concerns affect uptake of contraception. And without access to comprehensive counseling, too many women remain unaware of what methods are available or right for their needs. Additionally, even when myths are dispelled and a woman is able to access contraception, a lack of counseling on can lead women to not use or stop certain methods.
Providing client-centered information and choices are essential elements of MSI’s commitment to delivering high quality services globally. All MSI clients have a fundamental right to make informed choices and determine what happens with their sexual and reproductive health. Therefore, all MSI clients are entitled to client-centered counseling, allowing them to discuss any fears, anxieties and associated misconceptions, and enabling them to choose the method that is right for their lifestyle.
To increase our ability to provide the highest quality counseling, MSI recently developed a Digital Counselling App (DCA), which focuses on the client first, not the method. By offering clients a personalized opportunity to find the best contraceptive option for them – either in their own time (via free download, with a link to MSI services) or with a service provider (during a family planning counseling session) – the DCA aims to have a positive impact on women’s experiences with contraception.
A couple receives contraceptive counseling from a Marie Stopes Vietnam team member
Our DCA is the only evidence-based, interactive decision-making tool designed to support both providers and clients. It not only considers a client’s medical eligibility for a method based on World Health Organization guidance, but also considers how well each method fits with the client’s lifestyle, preferences and needs. It is also the only app designed as a tool both for providers to use during counseling, and for clients to use independently.
The development of the app initially focused on the provider version, with MSI providers testing the app at each stage of the development cycle. Though it is still being evaluated, more than 30 providers across 9 countries have already tested the app and provided feedback. The client DCA is also in the pilot phase, and is currently testing in Vietnam and Ethiopia as part of a randomized control trial to assess impact on contraceptive use and client experience.
The DCA is also fully translatable and adaptable to country contexts, meaning that MSI programs can tailor it to include only those methods available in that country. It does not require a user to sign in, is free for both android and iOS users, and works both offline and online. Additionally, users can read real-life testimonials from other clients of similar ages to help them choose the contraceptive method that is right for them.
MSI hopes to continue to expand the app’s use and reach across our global partnership in the years to come. You can even test the client-facing DCA for free on Marie Stopes Australia’s website. Try it out; you never know what you may find.