Overview of the Family Planning and Reproductive Health Indicators Database

Image of Patterned Cloth

The Family Planning and Reproductive Health (FP/RH) Indicators Database is an update of the Compendium of Indicators for Evaluating Reproductive Health Programs.  The Compendium was developed in 2002 as a result of two events in the 1990s. The first, the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), held in Cairo, Egypt in 1994, shifted the paradigm conceptualizing women’s health. In contrast to the earlier focus on family planning (FP) and (in some countries) on demographic objectives, the new paradigm emphasizes quality of life, gender equity, and human rights. As a result, the field of reproductive health (RH) has broadened to include multiple areas in addition to FP: safe motherhood, STI/HIV/AIDS, women’s nutrition, breastfeeding, postabortion care, female genital cutting, and related topics. The goals from ICPD require monitoring of reproductive health outcomes in terms of clearly defined indicators, as well as evidence-based results to demonstrate progress.

A second important trend has been increased emphasis on accountability from two sources: country programs and international donor agencies. Many governments, weary of funding programs that lead nowhere, embrace the concept of program evaluation for the purpose of learning how to strengthen programs in an effort to improve the lives and livelihoods of their populations. Donor agencies and private organizations, ranging from the large foundations to specialized NGOs, have actively sought more systematic methods to track progress and to measure results of their efforts.

After the Compendium was developed it became the leading resource for FP/RH indicators, reflecting far far greater field-based experience than did previous publications. Now, more than 10 years after the Compendium was first conceptualized, the field of FP/RH has gone through significant changes.  Current research and trends have drawn attention to areas such as male circumcision, cervical cancer, and private sector involvement in FP.  The United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Global Health Initiative (GHI) promotes integration and sustainability, which has put increased emphasis on such areas as FP/HIV integration, FP and maternal and child health, and health system strengthening.  With “improve metrics, monitoring and evaluation” as one of the GHI principles, it was time to update the Compendium to reflect the breadth of FP/RH programming currently underway in the field and a more recent evidence base.

Given the diversification and specialization within the field of FP/RH, few people can claim expertise across the full range of FP/RH topics. Whereas these different programs share the common goal of improving the quality of women’s and men’s lives through improving their RH status, the actual measures of progress toward that goal differ from one type of program to the next.

Intended Audience

Several different audiences should find this database pertinent to their own work, including:

  • Administrators, managers, and health workers in reproductive health programs worldwide;
  • Staff in international FP/RH agencies responsible for designing and evaluating collaborative projects with host country institutions;
  • In-country evaluation specialists responsible for monitoring performance and for evaluating the effectiveness of FP/RH programs in specific settings;
  • Social science researchers (e.g., demographers, private foundations and other donors supporting FP/RH programs;
  • Social science researchers (e.g., demographers, sociologists, economists), epidemiologists, and other health professionals; and
  • Students and instructors.

Organization of the Database

This database is organized in three parts. Overview of the Database provides a rationale for the database and objectives, as well as basic concepts in program evaluation. Crosscutting Indicators are those which are relevent across the different programmatic areas of FP/RH. The Specific Programmatic Area Indicators present indicators expressly for the major programmatic areas within FP/RH.  All indicators include the definition, data requirements, data sources, purpose, issues and, if relevant, gender implications.

Where there are additional online resources for specific FP/RH indicators, these links have been included, by thematic or techncial area.