Virtual Panel – Innovative Solutions to Reduce Barriers to Fistula Care
EngenderHealth hosted a virtual panel on the USAID-funded Fistula Care Plus (FC+) project, with partners Population Council and Viamo, to discuss learnings from an intervention to improve access to fistula care in Nigeria and Uganda.
Despite the expansion of fistula treatment programs in several affected countries, many women lack information about or access to fistula diagnosis and treatment. Digital health technologies have the potential to increase access to care for chronic maternal morbidities, such as obstetric fistula, and for women facing stigma, geographic isolation, and other socio-cultural barriers to care-seeking. The use of digital health technologies has expanded across low-resource settings, including in programs seeking to improve maternal health care seeking and service usage. However, there has been limited use of these technologies for screening and referral within maternal health, and many interventions have relied on SMS tools, which may have limited impact in settings with low female literacy.
The FC+ project, led by EngenderHealth, recently completed a research-to-action collaboration in partnership with the Population Council to identify and address hurdles to fistula diagnosis and repair in Nigeria and Uganda. The research study documented the process of developing and implementing an innovative fistula screening and referral hotline using Interactive Voice Recognition (IVR) technology and described the service usage results and stakeholder perspectives associated with the hotline.
During the virtual panel, guest panelists from the FC+ project, Population Council, Viamo, and USAID, shared lessons learned for the sustainable scale-up and integration of digital health solutions for health screening and treatment programs, as well as for interventions to address stigmatized and neglected conditions. Using multiple communication pathways, strong links to community health systems, and an innovative digital health solution developed in partnership with Viamo that targets stigma and literacy barriers, FC+ increased access to fistula screening and referral. The intervention responded to highly gendered barriers to health information and care and helped hundreds of underserved women access free fistula screening, diagnosis, and treatment services.