Using patient-held records to evaluate contraceptive use in Malawi

Type Journal Article - Bulletin of the World Health Organization
Title Using patient-held records to evaluate contraceptive use in Malawi
Volume 93
Issue 11
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2015
Page numbers 768-774

To investigate a method of using patient-held records to collect contraception data in Malawi, that could be used to explore contraceptive discontinuation and method switching.


In 2012, all 7393 women aged 15 to 49 years living in the area covered by the Karonga demographic surveillance site were offered a family planning card, which was attached to the woman's health passport - a patient-held medical record. Health-care providers were trained to use the cards to record details of contraception given to women. During the study, providers underwent refresher training sessions and received motivational text messages to improve data completeness. After one year, the family planning cards were collected for analysis.


Of the 7393 eligible women, 6861 (92.8%) received a family planning card and 4678 (63.3%) returned it after one year. Details of 87.3% (2725/3122) of contacts between health-care providers and the women had been recorded by health-care providers on either family planning cards or health passports. Lower-level health-care providers were more diligent at recording data on the family planning cards than higher-level providers.


The use of family planning cards was an effective way of recording details of contraception provided by family planning providers. The involvement of health-care providers was key to the success of this approach. Data collected in this way should prove helpful in producing accurate estimates of method switching and the continuity of contraceptive use by women.

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