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Rebecca Wind
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MANY WOMEN REPORT INTEREST IN COUPLE-FOCUSED FAMILY PLANNING SERVICES

Many Clinics Underestimate Level of Interest

Nearly two-thirds (65%) of women surveyed at Title X–funded family planning clinics reported that they were interested in attending couple-focused counseling or classes with their partner. According to “Couple-Focused Services in Publicly Funded Family Planning Clinics: Identifying the Need, 2009,” women were most interested in couples’ services that address “planning when to have a baby” (58%), while significant proportions were also interested in couples’ services addressing “choosing and using birth control” (43%) and “talking with a partner about birth control” (47%). Additionally, women in relationships reported strong interest in clinics providing medical services for their partners that men could access on their own.

The authors also surveyed clinic administrators and found that clinic staff underestimated women’s interest in couple-focused services: Fewer than half of clinic administrators thought that women would be interested in such services. Among clinics that offered couples’ counseling sessions or classes, the topics that were most likely to be covered included “choosing and using birth control” and “talking with a partner about birth control.” Clinics were somewhat less likely to offer couple-focused counseling or classes on the topic “planning when to have a baby.” Although two-thirds of clinics offered some couple-focused counseling, the authors found that fewer than 40% of clinics actively recruited men.

A number of barriers limit clinics’ ability to offer couple-focused services. Paramount among these is a lack of financial resources. Four out of five clinic administrators reported inadequate funding for couples’ services, and half reported a shortage of staff able to provide those services. These findings dovetail with previous Guttmacher research that established that clinics are struggling generally to meet the need for subsidized contraceptive care, which has grown as a result of the recession.

Publicly funded family planning clinics are a critical resource in the effort to improve contraceptive use and reduce unintended pregnancy, particularly among those populations at greatest risk. The authors suggest that incorporating couple-focused services into family planning service delivery may be one strategy that could help women and couples use contraceptives more successfully. Increasing the resources that clinics have to implement this, as well as utilizing other service delivery strategies for improving contraceptive use, is of the utmost priority.

Click here for the full report “Couple-Focused Services in Publicly Funded Family Planning Clinics: Identifying the Need, 2009,” by Mia R. Zolna, Laura D. Lindberg and Jennifer J. Frost.

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