Health News of Monday, 28 July 2014
Most women in many developing countries have never heard of or used emergency contraceptive pills, two decades after its introduction, a study reveals.
The study, “Knowledge and Use of Emergency Contraception: A Multicountry Analysis,” was undertaken by a team of researchers led by Dr Tia Palermo of Stony Brook University and released to the Ghana News Agency.
It said although the method can help women avoid unplanned pregnancies, in every country surveyed, fewer than 50 per cent of women have ever heard of it, and fewer than six per cent have ever used the pill.
In general, the more educated and wealthier women were more likely to have known about it or used emergency contraception.
The researchers analysed national survey data from 2000–2010 of women aged between 15 and 49, in 45 countries, in four geographical regions.
It said women’s knowledge and use of the method varied widely within each region.
In Africa, women’s awareness of emergency contraception ranged from two per cent in Chad to 40 per cent in Kenya and use ranged from less than 0.1 per cent in Chad to four per cent in Ghana.
Wide ranges in knowledge and use were also seen in the other three regions. In Latin America and the Caribbean, for example, Colombia had the highest proportions of women who knew about the method (66 per cent) and had used it (12 per cent), while Haiti had the lowest (13 per cent and 0.4 percent, respectively).
In Asia, awareness ranged from four per cent of women in Timor-Leste to 29 per cent in the Maldives, and use ranged from a low of 0.1 per cent (Cambodia, Nepal and Timor-Leste) to 0.9 per cent (Pakistan).
In Eastern Europe and West Asia, Ukraine had the highest rates of awareness and use (49 per cent and six per cent, respectively), while Azerbaijan had the lowest (five and 0.5 per cent).
According to the authors, rates of emergency contraception use in the countries studied tended to be much lower than in countries where the method has been on the market longer, such as France and the United States (17 per cent and 11 per cent, respectively).
The exceptionally high levels of knowledge and use found in Colombia, reflect, among other things, a commercial sector that makes nine brands of emergency contraceptive pills easily available.
The authors recommend that family planning programmes place a greater focus on disseminating information about emergency contraception, especially to women with lower income and less education.
They also recommend that governments, donors and NGOs ensure that a range of contraceptive methods, including emergency contraception, are available at public health facilities.