Centre buoyed by pilot scheme’s success

Encouraged by the response to its pilot scheme on home delivery of contraceptives by women health workers, the Centre has decided to extend the programme across the country with immediate effect.

The initiative of supplying contraceptives — condoms, oral contraceptive pills (OCP) and emergency contraceptive pills — at home by accredited social health activists (ASHAs) was launched on a pilot basis in 233 districts in 17 States in June last year. The aim was to improve access to contraceptives for eligible couples, and in return, ASHAs were incentivised for their efforts.

Once the scheme takes off, the free supply of contraceptives at the Primary Health Centre (PHC) and Sub-Centre level will be withdrawn. However, the supply of free contraceptives at Community Health Centres, sub divisional and district level hospitals will continue.

“The scheme was evaluated by three independent agencies and all three evaluations pointed to increased satisfaction on the part of both beneficiaries as well as ASHAs,” Anuradha Gupta, additional secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, told The Hindu.

Supply of these contraceptives would be part of the existing central procurement of the government. However, under the scheme, contraceptives would be packaged differently for easy identification.

Under the new scheme, ASHA would charge Re.1 for a pack of three condoms, Re.1 for a cycle of OCP and Rs. 2 for a pack of one tablet of emergency contraceptive from the beneficiaries as an incentive for her efforts. The OCP will, however, be given by ASHAs only after due screening and on the advice of the auxiliary nurse midwife, medical officer or a qualified person.

The ASHA would make a list of all eligible couples of her village, mentioning the preferred type of contraception and sharing the data of users with the sub-centre as well as the PHC.

The pilot scheme was evaluated by FHI 360, Population Foundation of India and Pathfinders International, all of which reported a high level of satisfaction among the users and ASHAs.

FHI 360 surveyed Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Orissa, Rajasthan, Assam, Gujarat and J&K where it concluded that 95 per cent clients were willing to pay for contraceptives, especially in Bihar. The Population Foundation of India surveyed Madhya Pradesh, Orissa and Bihar and said 53 per cent were willing to pay for contraceptives and the Pathfinders International survey said a majority of beneficiaries in Bihar were willing to pay for the contraceptives and found ASHAs easily accessible.

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