Objectives: Emergency contraception pills (ECP) are among the 13 essential commodities in the framework for action established by the UN Commission on Life-Saving Commodities for Women and Children. Despite having been on the market for nearly 20 years, a number of barriers still limit women’s access to ECP in low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) including limited consumer knowledge and poor availability. This paper reports the results of a review to synthesise the current evidence on service delivery strategies to improve access to ECP.
Methods: A narrative synthesis methodology was used to examine peer reviewed research literature (2003 to 2013) from diverse methodological traditions to provide critical insights into strategies to improve access from a service delivery perspective. The studies were appraised using established scoring systems and the findings of included papers thematically analysed and patterns mapped across all findings using concept mapping.
Findings: Ten papers were included in the review. Despite limited research of adequate quality, promising strategies to improve access were identified including: advance provision of ECP; task shifting and sharing; intersectoral collaboration for sexual assault; m-health for information provision; and scale up through national family planning programs.
Conclusion: There are a number of gaps in the research concerning service delivery and ECP in LMIC. These include a lack of knowledge concerning private/commercial sector contributions to improving access, the needs of vulnerable groups of women, approaches to enhancing intersectoral collaboration, evidence for social marketing models and investment cases for ECP.