Understanding modern contraception uptake in one Ethiopian community: A case study

Erica Sedlander, Jeffrey B. Bingenheimer, Mark C. Edberg, Rajiv N. Rimal, Hina Shaikh, Wolfgang Munar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: In the last decade, the proportion of Ethiopian women using contraceptive methods has increased substantially (from 14% in 2005 to 35% in 2016 among married women). Numerous factors have contributed to the increased uptake. An important one is the implementation of the Health Extension Program, a government-led health service delivery strategy that has deployed more than 38,000 health extension workers (HEWs) throughout the country. Key mechanisms underlying the success of this program are not well understood. Using a case study approach, the goal of this study is to describe how key features of local contexts, community perceptions, and messaging by HEWs have contributed to the increased use of modern contraception in one community in Ethiopia. Methods: We conducted focus groups and individual interviews with men, women, adolescents, and key informants, including (HEWs), in Oromia, Ethiopia. We used a random sampling protocol to recruit all participants except key informants, with whom purposive sampling was used to ensure participants were knowledgeable on family planning in the village. Interviews were audio recorded, translated, transcribed, and then analyzed using applied thematic analysis and NVivo v.11 qualitative research software. Results: We identified four themes that may explain uptake of contraception: (1) HEWs are seen as trusted and valued community members who raised awareness about family planning; (2) the HEW messaging that contraception is useful to space pregnancies among married women was effective; (3) the message that spacing is healthy for mother and child was also effective; and (4) communicating to the entire community (including men, women, adolescents, and religious leaders), contributed to changing attitudes around contraception. Conclusion: The four aspects of the Health Extension Program approach increased uptake of contraception in our sample. In contexts where community health workers are valued by the health systems and local communities they serve, this type of approach to widening modern contraception use could help increase uptake and address unmet need. Understanding these granular aspects of the program in one local context may help explain how use of contraception increased in the country as a whole.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number111
JournalReproductive health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jun 20 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Community based interventions
  • Contraceptives
  • Ethiopia
  • Family planning
  • Health extension worker
  • Sub Saharan Africa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Reproductive Medicine
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology


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