Objectives: Recent programmatic and research efforts on addressing gaps in health systems of low-income countries increasingly see task shifting, i.e. the provision of healthcare by non-medically trained personnel, as a possible solution to increase the availability of specific services and commodities. In Kinshasa, private-sector pharmacies are the primary and preferred provider of family planning (FP) methods, and thus constitute a potential resource for expanding access to specific contraceptives. The objective of this study is to explore selected pharmacies' readiness to serve women seeking emergency contraception (EC).
Study design: This study used a mystery client (MC) methodology to visit 73 pharmacies in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Trained interviewers posed as novice EC users and asked specific questions to evaluate the pharmacy staff's technical knowledge of EC and their attitudes towards EC clients. The results of the MC visit were recorded immediately after the MC left the pharmacy.
Results: Findings indicate that more than two-thirds of EC providers were knowledgeable about EC dosage, timeframe, and side effects, and 90% were deemed helpful towards novice EC users. Rare but glaring misconceptions about EC timeframe (20% of providers) and long-term side effects (4% of providers), as well as frequent stock-out (22%) and cost issues highlight priorities for programmatic improvements.
Conclusions: As new service delivery strategies are explored to complement the uneven network of health structures in DRC, this study suggests that, given proper training and integration in FP programming, private-sector pharmacies have the potential to meet specific contraceptive needs for women living in Kinshasa.
Implication statement: Private pharmacies included in study sample in Kinshasa (DRC) have adequate family planning (FP) service skills to provide clients with emergency contraceptive pills. These higher-end outlets constitute an opportunity for expanding access to FP, although, under total market approaches, a more diverse range of drugs shops should be investigated.
Keywords: Democratic Republic of Congo; Emergency contraception; Family planning; Mystery clients; Pharmacies.
Copyright © 2017 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.