Background: A growing number of middle-income countries are scaling up youth-friendly sexual and reproductive health pilot projects to national level programmes. Yet, there are few case studies on successful national level scale-up of such programmes. Estonia is an excellent example of scale-up of a small grassroots adolescent sexual and reproductive health initiative to a national programme, which most likely contributed to improved adolescent sexual and reproductive health outcomes. This study; (1) documents the scale-up process of the Estonian youth clinic network 1991-2013, and (2) analyses factors that contributed to the successful scale-up. This research provides policy makers and programme managers with new insights to success factors of the scale-up, that can be used to support planning, implementation and scale-up of adolescent sexual and reproductive health programmes in other countries.
Methods: Information on the scale-up process and success factors were collected by conducting a literature review and interviewing key stakeholders. The findings were analysed using the WHO-ExpandNet framework, which provides a step-by-step process approach for design, implementation and assessment of the results of scaling-up health innovations.
Results: The scale-up was divided into two main phases: (1) planning the scale-up strategy 1991-1995 and (2) managing the scaling-up 1996-2013. The planning phase analysed innovation, user organizations (youth clinics), environment and resource team (a national NGO and international assistance). The managing phase examines strategic choices, advocacy, organization, resource mobilization, monitoring and evaluation, strategic planning and management of the scale-up.
Conclusions: The main factors that contributed to the successful scale-up in Estonia were: (1) favourable social and political climate, (2) clear demonstrated need for the adolescent services, (3) a national professional organization that advocated, coordinated and represented the youth clinics, (4) enthusiasm and dedication of personnel, (5) acceptance by user organizations and (6) sustainable funding through the national health insurance system. Finally, the measurement and recognition of the remarkable improvement of adolescent SRH outcomes in Estonia would not have been possible without development of good reporting and monitoring systems, and many studies and international publications.