Journal Article

A review of 10 years of vasectomy programming and research in low-resource settings

Vasectomy is a highly effective and safe contraceptive method for couples who want to stop childbearing, but only 2.4% of men around the world use this method. We conducted an extensive review of the vasectomy research literature and programmatic reports, published between April 2005 and April 2015, to synthesize barriers and facilitators to vasectomy adoption. Of the more than 230 documents initially retrieved in our search, we ultimately included 75 documents in our review and synthesized the findings according to the Supply–Enabling Environment–Demand (SEED) Programming Model. Regarding promoting demand for vasectomy services, we found there was a general lack of awareness about the method among both men and women, which often fueled erroneous assumptions about how vasectomy affects men. Several types of programmatic activities directly addressed knowledge gaps and negative misperceptions, including community-based and mass media communications, employer-based promotion, and group counseling. For supply of services, the lack of or inaccurate knowledge about vasectomy was also prevalent among providers, particularly among community-based health workers. Programmatic activities to improve service delivery included the use of evidence-based vasectomy techniques such as no-scalpel vasectomy, whole-site trainings, task shifting, cascade training, and mobile outreach. Finally, programmatic approaches to building a more enabling environment included engagement of governments and other community and religious leaders as well as campaigns with gender transformative messaging that countered common myths and encouraged men's positive engagement in family planning and reproductive health. In summary, a successful vasectomy program is comprised of the mutually reinforcing components of continual demand for services and access to and supply of well-trained providers. In addition, there is an underlying need for enabling policies within the cultural and gender environments that extend beyond vasectomy and include men not just as default partners of female family planning clients but as equal beneficiaries of family planning and reproductive health programs in their own right. Accelerating progress toward meaningful integration of vasectomy into a comprehensive contraceptive method mix is only possible when political and financial will are aligned and support the logistical and promotional activities of a male reproductive health agenda.