The STEP UP Research Program Consortium investigates how health systems can be strengthened to reduce unmet need for family planning and safe abortion services.
Despite global support for family planning, women in developing countries continue to have high levels of unmet need. Approximately 40% of pregnancies globally are unintended. Of these, nearly half result induced abortion, the majority of which are unsafe. Even where permitted by law, access to safe abortion is often restricted because of poor interpretation of the law, poor quality care or unskilled or reluctant providers.
The STEP UP Research Program Consortium is generating evidence about women’s reproductive health needs in Bangladesh, Ghana, Kenya, India and Senegal, with a focus on improving measurement of unintended pregnancy, access to family planning and safe abortion services.
STEP UP is coordinated by the Population Council in partnership with the African Population and Health Research Center; International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh; the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine; and Marie Stopes International.
Through this research, STEP UP seeks to address two critical questions:
How can existing health systems be strengthened so that unmet need for family planning and safe abortion is reduced, especially among poor women? Research questions include:
- What are the most cost-effective and sustainable models for delivering family planning services to poor rural communities?
- How can family planning services best be delivered during the extended postpartum period to support a transition to effective contraceptive use?
- How can access to safe abortion be maximized, especially in settings where availability is less restricted?
Which innovations in technology, delivery, and financing can best expand access to family planning and safe abortion, especially among poor women? Research questions include:
- Where legally available, how best can medical abortion be introduced and mainstreamed into reproductive health systems so that nobody is denied access?
- What role can existing and emerging information and communications technologies play in increasing access to family planning and safe abortion services, including among the poorest?
Through its activities, STEP UP will strengthen and expand reproductive and maternal health programs so they function more efficiently and effectively and reach more women with higher-quality care. STEP UP will also help increase political commitment to reproductive and maternal health and provide the evidence base for program and policy development.