International Conference on Family Planning 2009

Family Planning: Research and Best Practices

Can We Simplify the Measurement of Unmet Need?

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Sarah BradleyThe measurement of unmet need for contraception is a core concept that is critical in the family planning community, and in fact it has become a Millennium Development Goals indicator. But what exactly the measurement means, currently, is convoluted

The current algorithm used to calculate unmet need is complex, and not as useful as it could be, said Sarah Bradley, MHS, a research associate at Macro International who presented a paper on Monday morning. Organizations and projects such as Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) conduct national surveys and collect tremendous amounts of data around the concept, as do organizations such as UNICEF and CDC—but across the organizations and from country to country the data is not comparable. Bradley would like to see consistent and comparable data; her goal is to rally the family planning community around a simpler, more straightforward measurement of unmet need that can be consistently applied across time and across different communities.

The current definition of unmet needs is extrapolated from a set of 13 different questions asked in surveys that last up to one hour. In Bradley’s model, the definition would emerge from only three questions that gather data from participants regarding current use of contraception; desires and timing for future birth(s); and reasons for not using contraception, if that is the case.

“Unmet need is a concept that’s too important to be measured inconsistently,” said Bradley.

Sarah Bradley earned a Master’s of Health Science degree from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Her co-authors are Trevor Croft and Joy Fishel. A research associate at Macro International, she currently works on a DHS project.

Written by C. Grillo | JHSPH

November 16, 2009 at 8:25 pm

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