Setting Health Targets Using Information from Probabilistic Projections: A Research Brief on an Application to Contraceptive Coverage
Broad and aspirational targets to meet health service needs are useful for advocacy, but setting measurable, time-defined targets for accelerated yet feasible progress is necessary for national monitoring and planning purposes. Information from probabilistic projections of health outcomes and service coverage can be used to set country-specific targets that reflect different starting points and rates of change. We show the utility of this approach in an application to contraceptive coverage in 131 low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) and the related cost and impact of different coverage scenarios. We use the sustainable development goal (SDG) indicator of the proportion of women who have their need for family planning satisfied with modern contraception. The results show that accelerated progress targets would collectively result in 83% of the need satisfied in 2030 for LMICs, which is 5% points higher than the projected level based on the current pace of progress. This translated into 41 million fewer women with an unmet need for modern methods and 14 million fewer unintended pregnancies. Annual direct costs would be $480 million more in 2030 to support contraceptive services compared with costs in 2030 based on the current pace of progress. As governments plan and budget for expanded health service coverage, information from probabilistic projections can guide them in setting measurable, ambitious yet realistic targets that are relevant to their particular contexts.