During a recent National Urban Health Mission (NUHM) monthly review meeting, Dr. Shahsikant Rai, the Urban Nodal Officer in Bulandshahr – a city in Uttar Pradesh, India – proposed that some undesignated funds be used to procure modern contraceptive methods known as the family planning “basket of choice.” These methods would then be offered to women during Integrated Urban Health, Sanitation and Nutrition Days (UHSNDs).
Dr. Rai shared how most women in the area flocked to the UHSNDs for child vaccinations. He also emphasized the regular coaching received from The Challenge Initiative (TCI) to broaden family planning services offered at various service delivery points and ensure the ready availability of those services alongside vaccinations. He recognized the untapped potential of the family planning basket of choice and saw an opportunity to use it not just as a resource but as a means to raise awareness about FP services and offer quality counseling to clients.
Dr. Rai’s initiative resulted in a decision to allocate funds from the Mahila Arogya Samiti (MAS) budget to procure the basket of choice. This basket was made available at every UHSND session through Urban Primary Health Centers (UPHCs), with a dedicated medical officer overseeing its distribution. Progress was regularly assessed during monthly meetings, leading to the widespread availability of the basket of choice at every MAS in Bulandshahar, where family planning counseling was actively offered. Clients in need were also referred to family planning services.
This transformative initiative not only empowered the members of the MAS but also equipped them with comprehensive knowledge about various family planning methods, enabling them to provide counseling to their communities.
Mamta Devi, a MAS member, played a significant role. During MAS meetings, Devi and her fellow members identified couples not using any family planning method. Collaborating with community health workers (CHWs) – such as auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs) and accredited social health activists (ASHAs), supported by TCI coaching – they provided information and advice on various family planning methods, giving couples a choice to pick the one that suited them best. Together with ASHAs, they prepared baskets of choice and distributed them at every UHSND session.
Thus, a small initiative from an Urban Nodal Officer, along with the efforts of the MAS and CHWs, left a lasting impact on Bulandshahr. The unrestricted funds were not merely spent, they were actively invested in the future of women and families. This story of transformation – from a simple directive to an empowering movement – showcases the incredible potential of community-led healthcare initiatives.