Step UP Strengthening evidence for programming on unintended pregnancy


Building the capacity to create, use, and demand high-quality evidence

STEP UP's capacity development strategy comprises several overlapping elements: building the capacity of STEP UP partners as a lasting legacy from participation in the RPC; building capacities of national partners (individuals and organizations) to demand and use research and to undertake research; and building capacity at the institutional level to use evidence around unintended pregnancy, by ensuring that issues related to unintended pregnancy are incorporated into and given appropriately high priority in global, regional and national planning and resource mobilisation.

Reviewing and refining the generation of evidence on the impact of FP and RH interventions

For evidence to be used effectively when preparing recommendations for best practices in reproductive health and family planning, it should be of a sufficiently high standard for decision-makers to have confidence in its validity and utility. STEP UP convened two series of consultations to address this:

In September 2103, STEP UP partners LSHTM and Population Council joined with USAID to organize a consultation that reviewed the range of research designs and methodologies that can be used to generate evidence on the impact of FP/RH interventions, and on their implementation, as well as the mechanisms and structures through which such evidence is then reviewed and translated into practice recommendations. The implications for organizing and funding evidence generation to maximise its quality and utility were discussed and a series of concrete recommendations proposed for:

    • Designing implementation research to maximise the quality of evidence generated and its utility for decision-making;
    • Synthesising and grading bodies of evidence on reproductive health and family planning;
    • Funding and research implementation structures and procedures to generate quality evidence and strong recommendations.

Please see:

STEP UP also convened a group of 16 technical experts at the Population Council office in New York, USA for a series of three consultations (September 2013, March 2014, and December 2014) on alternative approaches to measuring the impact of contraceptive use on averting unintended pregnancy, abortion, maternal, infant and child deaths. Four approaches were reviewed: Guttmacher Institute’s Adding it Up; MSI’s Impact 2; EngenderHealth’s Reality Check; and Futures Group FamPlan/LiST. The consultation concluded that there were sufficient differences between these approaches and the estimates generated that further discussions would be needed to identify the reasons for the differences and to provide guidance to decision-makers when using these approaches.

Please see:


Supporting the cultivation of strong research skills among students and researchers in STEP UP countries and focus areas

STEP UP supports the professional development of a number of research fellows and staff from several countries and through several partners. STEP UP fellows, researchers, and graduate students are supported to conduct, analyze, and disseminate their research; to attend conferences and symposia to meet other fellows and researchers and exchange knowledge; and to attend skill-building workshops (including skills in scientific writing, proposal development, quantitative data analysis, and policy analysis).

APHRC fellows: APHRC has supported two resident PhD fellows within APHRC’s African Doctoral Dissertation Research Fellowship (ADDRF) programme. Both fellows attended the ADDRF Scientific Writing Workshop on July 8–12, 2013 in Nairobi. The workshop aimed at training fellows on various aspects of scientific writing including the importance of publications to research, collaboration with other authors, and peer-review process. They also attended the ADDRF Scientific Symposium for Emerging Scholars in Health from July 15–17, 2013.

Population Council fellows:

    • Dr. Eliud Wekesa. STEP UP has leveraged PC’s Bixby Fellowship programme to recruit Dr. Wekesa of Kenya as a postdoctoral fellow, who is based in the Council’s Nairobi office and working with the STEP UP co-director on defining and measuring unintended pregnancy. Dr Wekesa is undertaking research that examines the ambivalence and ambiguity that is often expressed when women are asked to describe the intendedness of a pregnancy and the wantedness of a subsequent birth.

LSHTM fellows:

    • Marina Daniele: During 2013, Ms. Daniele collected data in Burkina Faso and prepared a dissertation which formed the basis of plans for a 2014 intervention research study to address the challenges in providing postpartum family planning services.

      Dissertation title: Postpartum family planning in Burkina Faso.

    • Onikepe Owolabi: Ms. Owolabi prepared a paper on unsafe abortion and contraceptive use after unwanted pregnancy and supported the preparation and implementation of a January 2014 workshop on defining and measuring unsafe abortion, organized jointly by LSHTM and the Alan Guttmacher Institute.

      Dissertation title: Unsafe abortion and contraceptive use after unwanted pregnancies in Zambia: Describing patterns and trends.

STEP UP also supports capacity building and professional development of its staff:

    • Dr. Fauzia Akhter Huda of icddr,b initiated her PhD program at Mahidol University in Thailand using data collected through the STEP UP funded study on Prevalence of unintended pregnancy and needs for family planning among married adolescent poor living in urban slums of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
    • Ms. Sabiha Chowdhuri of icddr,b completed a five-day training (22–26 September 2013), on the Implementation Research (IR) Tool Kit, organized jointly by icddr,b and the WHO Special Programme in Tropical Diseases. Ms. Chowdhuri also attended a quantitative data analysis course organized and conducted by the Technical Training unit, icddr,b, "Evening Course on Epidemiological Research Methods and Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS)," from 29 September to 10 October 2013.
    • Joyce Mumah from APHRC was awarded the IUSSP Junior Demographer award to attend the IUSSP-STEP UP seminar "Is access enough? Understanding and addressing unmet need" held in Nanyuki, Kenya from May 14–17. This award enabled Joyce to network with other participants at the meeting and to draft the final report of the meeting, under the guidance of the seminar organizers (Drs. Sarah Harbison and Iqbal Shah).

Working with partners in the STEP UP consortium to enhance skills in demanding, creating, and using research

The collaboration among STEP UP partners to build internal capacity is a long-term process that evolves each year of the RPC’s activities. Workshops and other capacity-building activities have included:

    • Training in the preparation of rigorous research protocols (which involved building experience in formulating research objectives, conceptual frameworks, outcome indicators, sampling and data collection methods, and analytical techniques);
    • Working collaboratively on evidence-gathering for studies;
    • Skills-development in engaging stakeholders at all stages of the research process;
    • Skills-development in managing multiple ethical reviews;
    • Support in drafting manuscripts for submission to peer-reviewed journals;
    • Working to enhance national policymakers’ ability to understand and interpret evidence generated through the country profile studies.


What's New

Activity update: In early October, the STEP UP team investigating reasons for unmet need for family planning (with particular attention to measurement of unintended pregnancy) began its second round of data collection, followed by a one-week training session. A total of 7,700 women in three study sites in Bangladesh (Matlab) and Kenya (Nairobi and Homa Bay) will be followed up with. Study participants will be asked about pregnancies, births, and month-to-month use of contraception between the two rounds, in addition to women’s views and experiences of use of pills, injectables, implants and condoms.

New journal article: Long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) are highly effective at reducing unintended pregnancy. Mobile phones offer a low-cost mechanism for providing individualised support to women with contraception outside of the clinic setting, which may be especially valuable in a setting like Bangladesh where uptake of LARCs are low. This study, Using automated voice messages linked to telephone counselling to increase postmenstrual regulation contraceptive uptake and continuation in Bangladesh: Study protocol for a randomised controlled trial, will provide information on the effects of such an intervention among MR clients in Bangladesh.

Recent event: To coincide with the 2017 Family Planning Summit, STEP UP hosted a research symposium in collaboration with the Maternal Healthcare Markets Evaluation Team. The symposium — Bridging the gap to FP2020: Evidence to accelerate progress toward meeting the need for family planning — brought together nearly 200 academics, implementers, donors, governments, and civil society members to share the latest evidence on unmet need for family planning, review evidence-informed programming for addressing unmet need, and discuss a research agenda aligned to the global architecture for family planning. To view the meeting programme, please click here.

Evidence briefs developed for 2017 London Family Planning Summit: Based on evidence from STEP UP and developed in partnership with DFID and WHO, seven evidence briefs were prepared for the Family Planning Summit held in London this summer. The briefs highlight evidence and provide research and programme considerations for improving access to family planning, and cover the following global themes: