Increasing modern contraceptive use among young, low-parity couples (those with one or two children) is the goal of the recent Next Generation “Smart Couple” Family Planning Campaign just released by the Health Communication Capacity Collaborative’s Nepal team.
At an inaugural event in Kathmandu on August 21, 2015, the Honorable Minister for Health and Population (MOHP) Khagaraj Adhikari officially launched the social and behavior change communication campaign to over 175 guests, including the Secretary MOHP; Director General, Department of Health Services (DOH); Director of National Health Education, Information and Communication Centre (NHEICC); Director of Family Health Division (FHD); development sector partners; Ms. Beth Dunford, USAID/Nepal’s Mission Director; and young couples from various parts of Nepal.
Dubbed “Smart Couple,” the campaign is taking a multi-channel approach, with high-quality television and radio spots now airing across Nepal – primarily through Nepal TV, Kantipur TV, Radio Nepal, Kantipur FM, Image FM and other local radio stations. The aim is to increase the use of modern contraceptives among young married couples, including both the newly married and young parents, or “1000-day” couples.
While gains in family planning and reducing unmet need have been made among certain segments of the population, young and newly married Nepali couples, those wishing to limit childbirth, or those in need of birth spacing, are lagging behind. According to the Nepal Demographic and Health Survey (2011), while 56 percent of women of reproductive age are below 30 years of age, only 12 percent use family planning to delay the birth of their first child. Less than 32 percent use family planning to space their second child after the first birth and fewer than 13 percent are using family planning within two months after delivery. Establishing early family planning behaviors to delay first birth, avoid unwanted postpartum pregnancy and space births successfully not only helps to improve maternal and child health outcomes in the short term, but will establish family planning use as a behavioral norm and, thus, affect longer-term fertility trends. The campaign, through its community programs in the districts, also focuses on families of migrant workers and people from marginalized and disadvantaged communities.
Pretesting found the word “Smart” has entered the local vernacular in Nepal in association with “new technology.” Additionally, “Smart Couple” was associated to the concept of mutual understanding, along with a bright and intelligent future. Consequently, the “Smart Couple” campaign seeks to encourage modern contraceptive use earlier among young couples, as well as to increase space between the first and second child by using a family planning method postpartum.
In describing the vision and positioning of the family planning campaign, Ron Hess, project director of HC3 in Nepal, says, “Family planning is a means to an end. We must start by asking, ‘Why family planning?’ People here give many reasons why they want to manage their number of children: to provide them better care and nurture, a better home and, very importantly, a better education. In short, parents in Nepal want a brighter future for their children, as parents do the world over. The current campaign respects these aspirations – placing the ‘why’ of family planning first, then offers family planning solutions as ‘smart’ means toward these ends.”
For example, for a couple to offer the best care for their first child, a “Smart” decision is to space by three years. The practical element of proper timing and appropriate method use addresses the question about how couples may use family planning to achieve their goals.
This campaign also includes promotion of counseling services by skilled agents at the community level. Outreach via mobile phones is planned for the next phase of the campaign.
What sets this “Smart Couple” campaign apart is the focus on increased modern contraceptive use among 1000-day couples – younger couples in their first three years of marriage. The added aspirational-component, as seen in the tagline, Family Planning Makes a “Smart” Life, focuses on family aspirations and expert use of the appropriate family planning method by life stage, thus allowing young Nepali couples to envision a bright future on their timeline.
The USAID-supported Health Communication Capacity Collaborative program is led by the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs and works under the leadership of the Ministry of Health and Population’s National Health Education, Information and Communication Centre in coordination with the Family Health Division.
For additional information on this campaign, visit the Spotlight in the Health COMpass: Smart Couple – Nepal