Objectives In many sub-Saharan African countries, the use of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) is low while unmet need for family planning (FP) remains high. We evaluated the effectiveness of a LARC access expansion initiative in reaching young, less educated, poor, and rural women. Methods Starting in 2008, Marie Stopes International (MSI) has implemented a cross-country expansion intervention to increase access to LARCs through static clinics, mobile outreach units, and social franchising of private sector providers. We analyzed routine service statistics for 2008-2014 and 2014 client exit interview data. Indicators of effectiveness were the number of LARCs provided and the percentages of LARC clients who had not used a modern contraceptive in the last 3 months ("adopters"); switched from a short-term contraceptive to a LARC ("switchers"); were aged <25; lived in extreme poverty; had not completed primary school; lived in rural areas; and reported satisfaction with their overall experience at the facility/site. Results Our annual LARC service distribution increased 1037 % (from 149,881 to over 1.7 million) over 2008-2014. Of 3816 LARC clients interviewed, 46 % were adopters and 46 % switchers; 37 % were aged 15-24, 42 % had not completed primary education, and 56 % lived in a rural location. Satisfaction with services received was rated 4.46 out of 5. Conclusions The effectiveness of the LARC expansion in these 14 sub-Saharan African FP programs demonstrates vast untapped potential for wider use of LARC methods, and suggests that this service delivery model is a plausible way to support FP 2020 goals of reaching those with an unmet need for FP.
Keywords: Family planning; Long-acting reversible contraception; Sub-Saharan Africa; Unmet need.