Take a Peak into International Contraception Access with Dr. Chin-Quee

By Maryam

At Nurx, we’re interviewing inspiring Changemakers who are making a difference in the health field and reproductive justice field.

Below, is an interview with Dr. Dawn Chin-Quee where she discusses her research in family planning and contraception access internationally. Dr. Chin-Quee was born and raised in Jamaica and migrated with her family to the United States. After completing a postdoctoral fellowship in HIV/AIDS research training at UCLA, she developed an interest in public health—specifically international health. Since joining FHI 360, Dawn has designed and monitored research in family planning and reproductive health.

What are some current solutions that have helped overcome major barriers to accessing health care internationally?

DCQ: With a global shortage in health care personnel, task sharing helps to increase access to and availability of health care. This entails sharing the provision of health care services among different cadres of providers. In the case of family planning, it means allowing lower-level, but capable cadres of providers, such as community health workers,  to provide injectables and even implants. Task sharing also increases access to other long-acting and permanent methods such as the IUD and vasectomy by training nurses and medical officers to provide these methods alongside doctors.

What was the most rewarding experience you had while conducting research?

DCQ: My most rewarding experience occurred while directing a research project in Zambia that was in collaboration with the Government of Zambia and ChildFund. We trained community health workers (CHWs) to provide injectable contraception to women in their communities.

When the implementation period was drawing to a close, the Community Health Workers told us that the women who they had served under the auspices of the study were very concerned that they would soon be unable to obtain Depo Provera from them—and would have to go to health facilities for the injection. I had never before experienced positive feedback and the intended outcome before the data were even analyzed!

Community-based access to injectables (CBA2I) had become an indispensable service to them! Needless to say, we pulled out all the stops and were successful in preserving the services for these women even after the study ended. The research findings eventually led to a change in policy that allowed community health workers in Zambia to provide injectable contraceptives to women – facilitating and increasing their access to family planning services.

Do you think technology can help bridge the gap or even eliminate some health disparities?

DCQ: Absolutely! The global penetration of mobile phones has increased the reach of service provision for many health services and facilitates the collection and management of health data.

In some countries—notably Kenya, mobile phones now enable people to access goods and services without a bank account. Telemedicine is used to support health professionals in resource-constrained settings, and drones are being deployed to deliver and retrieve health care equipment and supplies. These all help to reduce health disparities, especially in hard-to-reach places.

Where do you see the future of contraceptive access headed?

DCQ: In the short-term, I expect bumps in the road, but even then, technology may bridge the gap with the growing trend of online access to contraceptives. While that may ease or even improve access for some, it will erect barriers for others. I am confident that eventually we will return to a system that values reproductive health care for all and hope that it doesn’t come at the price of losing all the gains we have made.