Background: Promoting family planning (FP) is a key strategy for health, economic and population growth. Sub-Saharan Africa, with one of the lowest contraceptive prevalence and highest fertility rates globally, contributes half of the global maternal deaths. Improving the quality of FP services, including enhancing pre-service FP teaching, has the potential to improve contraceptive prevalence. In efforts to improve the quality of FP services in Tanzania, including provider skills, this study sought to identify gaps in pre-service FP teaching and suggest opportunities for strengthening the training.
Methods: Data were collected from all medical schools and a representative sample of pre-service nursing, Assistant Medical Officer (AMO), Clinical Officer (CO) and assistant CO schools in mainland Tanzania. Teachers responsible for FP teaching at the schools were interviewed using a semi-structured questionnaire. Observations on availability of teaching resources and other evidence of FP teaching and evaluation were documented. Relevant approved teaching documents were assessed for their suitability as competency-based FP teaching tools against predefined criteria. Quantitative data were analyzed using EPI Info 6 and qualitative data were manually analyzed using content analysis.
Results: A total of 35 pre-service schools were evaluated for FP teaching including 30 technical education and five degree offering schools. Of the assessed 11 pre-service curricula, only one met the criteria for suitability of FP teaching. FP teaching was typically theoretical with only 22.9% of all the schools having systems in place to produce graduates who could skillfully provide FP methods. Across schools, the target skills were the same level of competence and skewed toward short acting methods of contraception. Only 23.3% (n = 7) of schools had skills laboratories, 76% (n = 22) were either physically connected or linked to FP clinics. None of the degree providing schools practiced FP at its own teaching hospital. Teachers were concerned with poor practical exposure and lack of teaching material.
Conclusions: Pre-service FP teaching in Tanzania is theoretical, poorly guided, and skewed toward short acting methods; a majority of the schools are unable to produce competent FP service providers. Pre-service FP training should be strengthened with more focus on practical skills.