Quality of family planning services in Mexico: The perspective of demand

Introduction

Family planning (FP) is one of the key services provided by health care systems. Extending beyond matters of sexual and reproductive health, its area of influence impacts directly on the development of individuals and nations. After 60 years of intense FP activities in Mexico, and in light of recent restructuring of health service supply and financing, services need to be assessed from a user perspective.

Objective

Based on a comprehensive conceptual framework, this article assesses the quality of the FP services provided by the Mexican Ministry of Health (MoH). Analysis considers not only accessibility and availability but also the users’ perceptions of the care process, particularly as regards the interpersonal relations they experience with staff and the type of information they are provided.

Material and methods

This study used a descriptive, qualitative design based on maximum variation sampling in six Mexican states. It included visits to 12 clinics in urban and rural areas. Thematic analysis was performed on 86 semi-structured interviews administered to FP service users.

Results

While access was described by users as “easy,” their experiences revealed normalized barriers. One of our key findings referred to inverse availability, meaning that the contraceptive methods available were generally not the ones preferred by users, with their selection therefore being shaped by shortage of supplies. Challenges included disrespect for the free choice of FP users and coercion during consultations for contraception post obstetric event. Finally, information provided to users left considerable room for improvement.

Conclusions

After six decades of FP service supply, results indicate a series of quality issues that may lie at the heart of the unmet demand reported in the literature. Based on a comprehensive conceptual scheme, the present study analyzes the quality of services, highlighting areas for improvement that should be considered by the MoH in future efforts.