Youth-Friendly Health Services (YFHS) in Malawi: How Does the YFHS Program Performance Match Up to National Standards?

Publication date: 2015

HEALTH POL ICY P R O J E C T YOUTH-FRIENDLY HEALTH SERVICES IN MALAWI HOW DOES THE YFHS PROGRAM PERFORMANCE MATCH UP TO NATIONAL STANDARDS? March 2015 Introduction In 2007, the Ministry of Health-Reproductive Health Directorate (MOH-RHD) launched the Youth-Friendly Health Services National Standards and Youth-Friendly Health Services (YFHS) program, with the aim of providing high-quality services to young people1 in a friendly manner that is acceptable, accessible, appropriate, affordable, and attractive. Aligned with Malawi’s minimum health package, the YFHS standards outline a clinical health service delivery package that includes health promotion and counseling, delivery of health services, referral, and follow-up at the community, health center, and hospital levels. The five standards— aligned with international World Health Organization recommendations—serve as benchmarks to monitor performance and guide future programming of YFHS delivery in Malawi. Assessing YFHS Performance From 2013–2014, the MOH-RHD—with assistance from the USAID-supported Evidence to Action project and the Centre for Social Research, University of Malawi— conducted its first comprehensive evaluation of the YFHS program. The evaluation assessed the implementation of YFHS and level of adherence to the national standards in the context of meeting the sexual and reproductive health Brief Health Policy Project, Futures Group Youth-friendly health services (YFHS) are a key component of Malawi’s National Sexual and Reproductive Health Program and will help facilitate the attainment of Malawi’s FP2020 commitment to achieve a 60 percent contraceptive prevalence rate, with a focused increase among those ages 15–24 years. Managing the performance of the YFHS program is one aspect of safeguarding young people’s transition into adulthood and improving health indicators for 5 million people in Malawi. (SRH) needs of youth. The evaluation was conducted in 10 districts2 across the five health zones, with both qualitative and quantitative components. This brief, prepared by the USAID-funded Health Policy Project, summarizes the evaluation report’s findings on the implementation of YFHS standards to help inform future planning and implementation by policymakers and stakeholders. 2 March 2015 Implementation of each YFHS standard in health centers and hospitals across the country has varied significantly. Urban health facilities complied better with YFHS standards than rural-based health facilities, with additional variation across the five health zones. District support to YFHS is mostly channelled into (1) provision of essential medicines and equipment, (2) mobilization of resources for service delivery and trainings, and (3) facilitation of linkages with organizations working in the district. Furthermore, there is little support for data utilization among other non-clinical-based stakeholders or the provision of policies, guidelines, and job aids. Overall, the performance3 was low to medium, with key elements performing poorly, suggesting that the health system has been inefficient and ineffective in providing enough support to health facilities to fully adhere to YFHS standards (see Table 1). For example, while many healthcare providers have been trained in delivering YFHS, few facilities (1) clearly display YFHS hours of operation; (2) have information, education, and communication (IEC) materials specific to YFHS; or (3) conduct outreach services in the community specifically for youth. Furthermore, while the majority of health facilities have a way for young people to provide feedback on services, only about three-fifths of health facilities have YFHS clinical management guidelines for service providers, as per the recommended package. Less than one-third (33%) of facilities provide in-house supervision of YFHS, and about two-fifths (37%) of facilities are accredited in providing YFHS. Without adequate training and supervision of service providers or the essential tools for their work, the access and quality of YFHS may be compromised. Data collection and use also need to be strengthened. Most facilities do not collect age-disaggregated data, and only one-third of service providers analyze and utilize data for planning purposes. This suggests the YFHS program is not being versatile in addressing the diverse and evolving needs of its clients, nor is it influencing the prioritization of services at facilities through use of real- time data. Key Questions to Improve YFHS Poor implementation and quality assurance of these national YFHS standards is hindering the effectiveness of the overall YFHS program by (1) impeding service providers’ capacity to assure high-quality, youth-friendly services; (2) limiting meaningful participation of youth, both as clients and as program developers; and (3) preventing active community support to stimulate and advocate for youth health. With elements of the YFHS standards performing at medium and high levels, an opportunity exists to improve implementation of other elements that are lagging. For example, performance under Standard 1 highlights that most facilities disseminate information on YFHS to the community, but some service delivery points’ engagement of the community on YFHS was rated low under Standard 3. The existing practice of disseminating information to the community could therefore be stimulated to deepen community engagement on YFHS, especially dialogue with youth around their SRH needs. Informed by the MOH-RHD evaluation data, policymakers and program managers can identify what key YFHS standards need more investment and in which geographic areas and facilities. However, as strategies to strengthen the health system and improve implementation of YFHS in Malawi are developed, some key questions should be addressed: ƒ What key challenges should be addressed to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of YFHS standards implementation? ƒ How do we best prioritize YFHS in RH-integrated supportive supervision, and how can we annually accredit facilities in YFHS? ƒ How can we improve YFHS data collection and use? ƒ What is the role of young people, local nongovernmental organizations, and key partners in facilitating implementation and ensuring accountability of the YFHS program? ƒ What strategies can be used to strengthen youth voices in advocating for their health needs? Notes 1. The 2007 YFHS National Standards define young people as those ages 10–24 years, regardless of marital, social, or economic status. 2. Mzimba and Karonga (Northern Health Zone), Dowa and Kasungu (Central West Health Zone), Lilongwe and Ntcheu (Central West Health Zone), Mangochi and Phalombe (South West Health Zone), and Nsanje and Chiradzulu (South West Health Zone). 3. For the evaluation, implementation of a YFHS standard element was considered low if less than 50 percent of health facilities reported implementation; medium if between 50 and 75 percent; and high if more than 75 percent. 3 YFHS in Malawi: How Does the YFHS Program Performance Match Up to National Standards? Status of YFHS Standards Implementation in Malawi Health Center (n=33) Hospital (n=10) Level of Implementation Standard 1: Health services are provided to young people according to existing policies, procedures, and guidelines at all service delivery points 1. Facility has a copy of the National Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Policy and National Youth Policy 48.5 100 Medium 2. Reproductive health and youth policy documents are made available to all service delivery points in the hospital (departments/wards)b - 50 Medium 3. Facility has copies of the YFHS standards 57.6 70 Medium 4. YFHS standards are made available to all service delivery points in the hospital (departments/wards)b - 40 Low 5. Facility disseminates information about YFHS to the communitya 97 - High 6. Service providers have been trained/oriented on the YFHS standards 78.8 80 High 7. Measures put in place by the hospital/health center to ensure YFHS providers provide services according to YFHS standards 100 60 High 8. The facility administers exit interviewsb - 40 Low Standard 2: Young people are able to obtain health services that include preventive, promotive, curative, and rehabilitative health services appropriate to their needs 1. Facility is providing the minimum package of YFHS to young people 100 90 High 2. Facility has adequate space for the provision of YFHS 100 40 High 3. Facility has a clearly displayed sign that shows available YFH services, locations, and hours of operation 21.2 50 Low 4. Facility provides outreach services specific to youth 33.3 30 Low 5. Outreach services are being provided according to schedule 15.2 10 Low Standard 3: All young people are able to obtain health information (including on SRH and HIV) relevant to their needs, circumstances, and stage of development 1. Facility has information, education, and communication (IEC) materials that target young people 42.4 60 Low 2. Facility has youth-specific and appropriate IEC materials on display for young people to take away 64.3 10 Low 3. Facility distributes IEC materialsb - 30 Low 4. Facility has established linkages with other organizations/institutions in the area that are providing information, counseling, and education on health for young people (including sexual and reproductive health) 63.6 100 Medium 5. Facility has organized community meetings to provide information about YFHS 48.5 60 Medium 6. Facility has organized community meetings to provide information about adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) and rights 36.4 40 Low 7. Service providers from the facility conduct community meetings to discuss the value and availability of health services for adolescents/youth with community membersa 66.7 - Low Standard 4: Service providers in all delivery points have the required knowledge, skills, and positive attitudes to effectively provide YFHS 1. Facility has service providers who have been trained in YFHS 81.8 80 High 2. Facility has support staff (e.g., pharmacy attendants, laboratory attendants, and hospital attendants) trained in YFHS 12.1 10 Low 3. Facility provides/organizes training for service providers in YFHSb - 10 Low 4. Facility has standard operating procedures or clinical management guidelines for service providers to provide health services to adolescents and youth as per recommended package 63.6 60 Medium 5. Facility refers young people to other health facilities 81.8 60 High 6. Referral system was developed in collaboration with the communitya 18.2 - Low Table 1. Percentage of health centers and hospitals implementing YFHS standards March 2015 4 The Health Policy Project is a five-year cooperative agreement funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development under Agreement No. AID-OAA-A-10-00067, beginning September 30, 2010. HPP is implemented by Futures Group, in collaboration with Plan International USA, Avenir Health (formerly Futures Institute), Partners in Population and Development, Africa Regional Office (PPD ARO), Population Reference Bureau (PRB), RTI International, and the White Ribbon Alliance for Safe Motherhood (WRA). The information provided in this document is not official U.S. Government information and does not necessarily represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Contact Us Health Policy Project 1331 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Suite 600 Washington, DC 20004 Status of YFHS Standards Implementation in Malawi Health Center (n=33) Hospital (n=10) Level of Implementation 7. Facility has a resource directory of organizations providing health services not provided at the health facilityb - 10 Low 8. Facility has a functional one-way referral system with other facilities delivering RH servicesb - 30 Low 9. Facility has functional back referral system with other facilities delivering RH services - 0 Low 10. Facility initiated/conducted exit interviews with young people in the last quarter 18.2 10 Low 11. Facility has a way for young people to provide feedback on their satisfaction with YFHS 97 90 High 12. Facility analyzes and utilizes data on feedback to improve services for young people 42.4 40 Low 13. Facility provides supportive supervision to peer educatorsa 36.4 - Low 14. Facility provides supportive supervision to community-based service providersa 66.7 - Medium 15. Facility provides feedback to service providers/community-based service providers 54.5 40 Medium 16. Facility gives recognition to service providers/community-based service providers who provide high-quality YFHS 21.2 0 Low 17. Facility provides in-house supervision of YFHSb - 30 Low 18. Facility is accredited in providing YFHS 45.4 10 Low Standard 5: Health information related to young people is collected, analyzed, and utilized in decision making at all levels 1. Facility has disaggregated data for young people’s profiles in the catchment area (age, sex, school status, and marital status) 39.4 30 Low 2. Facility has a service register/reporting form to record the age of the adolescents/ youth separately and compile it in age categories (10–14, 15–19, 20–24) 33.3 30 Low 3. Service providers at the facility analyze and utilize data for planning purposes 36.4 20 Low 4. Facility monitors and supervises health surveillance assistants (HSAs) 84.8 90 High 5. Facility compiles HSA data 78.8 80 High 6. Facility submits quarterly reports to the district health office/national level 87.9 90 High 7. Facility provides feedback on data at the community level 27.3 60 Low 8. Facility identifies best practices at the community level 45.4 40 Low 9. Facility participates in reviews of health management information systems to ensure AYSRH data and indicators are included 63.6 70 Medium Source: Adapted from: Evidence to Action Project. 2014. Evaluation of Youth-Friendly Health Services in Malawi. Washington, DC: Pathfinder International. aData collected from health centers only, bData collected from hospitals only. This brief is based on the Evaluation of Youth-Friendly Health Services in Malawi, available at

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