Family planning operations research in Africa: reviewing a decade of experience

M. J. Wawer, R. McNamara, T. McGinn, D. Lauro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Between 1979 and 1990, Columbia University conducted 26 family planning operations research (OR) projects in 13 sub-Saharan African countries. Most of these projects were implemented in settings where family planning service delivery had not yet been initiated or was new and poorly developed. In keeping with program needs in the early stages of development, the majority of the OR projects were based on demonstration or diagnostic designs. Only four of the 23 projects were comparative or quasi-experimental in design. Projects demonstrated the growing demand for family planning, and the feasibility and acceptability of a range of service delivery models. Sixteen of the projects have been sustained or replicated by national or local governments and institutions following the initial OR phase; replication of two others is planned, and another four resulted in policy formulation or improvements in existing national programs. OR in Africa played an important role in generating political and medical support for contraceptive services, and served to improve project management. OR proved more useful in the implementation and strengthening of individual programs than in generating universal lessons regarding service delivery. In order to maximize OR's utility in Africa, simple research designs and methods should be adopted. -Authors

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-293
Number of pages15
JournalStudies in family planning
Issue number5
StatePublished - 1991
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Social Sciences (miscellaneous)


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