Expanding Health Services across Pakistan

In the remote community of Baidara, Pakistan, Razia and Fazil Mohammad decided that they wanted to look into family planning options. After having seven children, they say they wanted to provide the best financial support possible for their already large family.

In their community, located in the rural northwest corner of the country, there are few health facilities and knowledge and use of family planning is low. Many couples like Razia and Fazil do not have ready access to the information and services they need to plan their families.

In fact, Razia says she had heard many myths about contraceptives, leading her to believe that many methods were unsafe.

“I used to believe oral pills were cancerous and could cause abnormal babies, believed that injections would prevent me from ever getting pregnant again, and heard that intrauterine devices move to the liver and heart, causing cancer of uterus,” Razia says.

Not knowing what to believe, she decided to visit the local Baidara basic health unit in June 2010 to learn more about family planning.

The health unit was staffed by specially trained Lady Health Visitors, who provide services within the Pakistani health system at facilities where regular government staff are not always available. These health workers are graduates of training program run by the National Rural Support Programme, a Packard Foundation grantee.

When she arrived at the Baidara health clinic, Razia was met by one of the Lady Health Visitors. The health worker readily answered her many questions, addressed her misconceptions, and provided basic information on the types of family planning methods that were available at the clinic. It was then that Razia learned that there were many safe methods of contraception and that the myths she had been hearing from other women were all false.

Razia decided that an injectable method of family planning—which is long lasting and requires fewer health visits—best met her and her husband’s needs. After her follow-up visit, Razia says she was extremely happy with her decision and grateful for the Lady Health Visitor who helped give her the information she needed.

To date, the program has trained more than 100 Lady Health Visitors in rural Pakistan, who are now providing essential family planning services in hard to reach areas. Because of their work, there are many more couples like Razia and Fazil who are now able to access the services they need to make the best reproductive health decisions for their families.