Quality of facility-based family planning services for adolescents in Malawi: Findings from a national census of health facilities
Background: The main objective of this study was to describe the quality, in terms of provision and experience of care, of facility-based family planning services for adolescents compared to older clients in Malawi.
Methods: Secondary data analysis was performed on data obtained from the Service Provision Assessment survey 2013-14, a census of all formal health facilities in the country. For the present study the inclusion criterion was that the client’s age was recorded in the data set, which gave a weighted total of 1388 observations of consultations, reflecting provision of care, and client exit interviews, reflecting experience of care.
Results: The youngest clients (age group 13 to 19 years) had twice the odds of reporting a better experience of care compared to clients aged 26 and older (odds ratio [OR] 2.03, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.15 to 3.54, P = 0.013). The standard of observed provision was low, typically with half or more of the mandated elements of care omitted. Compared with clients aged over 25, provision of care was slightly better for adolescents, with a coefficient of 4.56 on a percentage scale (95% CI 0.90 to 8.23, P = 0.015) and a coefficient of 2.33 for those aged 20-25 (95% CI 0.21 to 4.44, P = 0.032). Clients seen in facilities under nongovernmental management had better provision of care compared to government facilities, with a coefficient of 12.35 (95% CI 6.70 to 18.01, P < 0.001); care was worse for clients seen in clinics compared to hospitals (coefficient −6.88, 95% CI −11.41 to −2.35, P = 0.003) and also for clients seen by health surveillance assistants compared to those seen by a clinician (coefficient −9.41, 95% CI −15.53 to −3.29, P = 0.003).
Conclusions: Quality of care for adolescents attending facility-based family planning services was slightly better than for older clients, but this is overshadowed by the finding of a low standard of care overall. Health system strengthening, especially at the clinic level, is a policy and programming priority that will contribute to adolescent reproductive health in Malawi.