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Many of the countries where we work have a shortage of doctors, as well as large numbers of people in rural areas who may find health care difficult to access. This means we have to take steps to maximise our reach. One way we do this is through task sharing.
This is where community health works and ‘mid-level’ healthcare professionals – such as midwives and clinical officers – are trained to carry out procedures that would otherwise be restricted to more senior personnel like doctors. These providers are distributed more evenly across rural and low income areas than doctors, and crucially, are more likely to remain within their communities once they have been trained.
A study we carried out in Ethiopia found that task sharing our voluntary female sterilisation meant that we were able to provide services in four times as many locations – the vast majority in rural, under-served communities.
In 2012, MSI’s international experience in task sharing family planning contributed to the development of global guidance. World Health Organisation guidelines were issued in December and reflect MSI best practice, clarifying that mid- and lower-level cadres of health worker can be highly effective in the safe provision of family planning services. We are now working with governments to implement these guidelines, for example, in Burkina Faso we played an important role in securing authorisation for nurses and midwives to administer implants and IUDs.
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