Closing the gap: the potential of Christian Health Associations in expanding access to family planning


  • Lauren VanEnk Institute for Reproductive Health, Georgetown University
  • Ronald Kasyaba Uganda Catholic Medical Bureau
  • Prince Bosco Kanani Caritas Rwanda Catholic Health Services
  • Tonny Tumwesigye Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau
  • Jeannette Cachan Institute for Reproductive Health, Georgetown University



Recognizing the health impact of timing and spacing of pregnancies, the Sustainable Development Goals call for increased access to family planning globally. While faith-based organizations in Africa provide a significant proportion of health services, family planning service delivery has been limited. This evaluation sought to assess the effectiveness of implementing a systems approach in strengthening the capacity of Christian Health Associations to provide family planning and increase uptake in their communities. From January 2014 to September 2015, the capacity of three Christian Health Associations in East Africa—Caritas Rwanda, Uganda Catholic Medical Bureau, and Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau—was strengthened in key components of a systems approach to family planning—training, supervision, commodity availability, family planning promotion, data collection, and creating a supportive environment—with the aim of improving access to women with unmet need and harmonizing faith-based service delivery contributions with the national family planning program. Community-based provision of family planning, including fertility awareness methods, was introduced across intervention sites for the first time.  547 facility- and community-based providers were trained in family planning, and 393,964 people were reached with family planning information. 32,176 clients took up a method, and 43% of clients received this service at the community level.  According to a provider competency checklist, facility- and community-based providers were able to adequately counsel clients on new fertility awareness methods. Integration of Christian Health Associations into the national family planning strategy improved through participation in routine technical working group meetings, and the Ministries of Health in Rwanda and Uganda recognized them as credible family planning partners. Findings suggest that by strengthening capacity using a systems approach, Christian Health Associations can meaningfully contribute to national and international family planning goals. Increased attention to mainstreaming family planning service delivery across Christian Health Associations is recommended.

Author Biographies

Lauren VanEnk, Institute for Reproductive Health, Georgetown University

MPH, Program Officer


Lauren Van Enk manages several family planning and reproductive health programs in Africa. She has over nine years of experience working in design, implementation and management of global reproductive and maternal health projects. She provides technical guidance in community-based family planning as well as training design for providers. Lauren is particularly passionate about building the capacity of faith-based organizations and religious leaders in family planning and has provided this support across several countries in Africa. Focusing on disseminating research and program results, Lauren has authored and contributed to many of IRH's articles, reports, and curricula. She believes IRH is uniquely poised to address global family planning challenges by enabling both women and men to make informed decisions about their reproductive health. She holds a Master's degree in Global Public Health from George Washington University and a BA from Calvin College. Her past experiences involve research in reproductive health and HIV/AIDS with BRAC University in Bangladesh, advocacy in global maternal health, and nutrition education. - See more at:

Ronald Kasyaba, Uganda Catholic Medical Bureau

MD, Assistant Executive Secretary

Prince Bosco Kanani, Caritas Rwanda Catholic Health Services

MD, MHCDS, Director

Tonny Tumwesigye, Uganda Protestant Medical Bureau

MD, MPH, Executive Director

Jeannette Cachan, Institute for Reproductive Health, Georgetown University

MA, M.Ed, Director of Capacity Building and Technical Assistance




How to Cite

VanEnk, L., Kasyaba, R., Kanani, P. B., Tumwesigye, T., & Cachan, J. (2017). Closing the gap: the potential of Christian Health Associations in expanding access to family planning. Christian Journal for Global Health, 4(2), 53–65.