Washington: A new smartphone app developed to help married women in rural India better understand contraceptive choices led to a dramatic increase in the number of women using modern family planning methods in just a few months, a new study has found.
The app incorporates a variety of videos about family planning and modern contraceptive methods, including entertaining and educational films, testimonials from happy couples who are using contraception, Q and A videos with physicians and other information that aims to dispel myths and misconceptions.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University's Centre for Communication Programmes (CCP) in US said that women who watched videos were 4.5 times more likely to use modern contraceptive methods than those who did not.
"This study shows that mobile technology provides an innovative and dynamic platform for social and behaviour change communication," said Sanjanthi Velu, Asia team lead at
The researchers developed the app, called Gyan Jyoti, or "light of knowledge," for use in Bihar.
The app is designed for use by Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs), community health workers in India.
In one district of Bihar, smartphones loaded with the app were given to 14 ASHAs, while in another district another 14 ASHAs were supplied with SD cards. Each set of ASHAs regularly visits roughly 1,400 rural women.
The ASHAs with the smartphone app were able to customise their family planning counselling, showing videos most appropriate to answer each woman's particular questions.
Those ASHAs who had the SD card could show the videos, but did not have the benefit of customising their interaction.
The researchers randomly chose 406 women from each district to study in May last year, five months after the app and the SD cards were made available to the ASHAs.
They found that 22 per cent of women who were counselled with the app were using modern contraception such as intrauterine device (IUDs), oral contraceptive pills and
injectable contraception at the end of the study period, while 13 per cent of the women were using modern contraception in the district without the app.
Of the 75 women in the intervention district who were using modern contraceptive methods at the end of the study period, three-quarters of them had interacted with the app.
Among the types of modern family planning methods that were chosen were female sterilisation (41 per cent), injectable contraception (18 per cent), hormonal birth-control
pills (11 per cent), condoms (11 per cent) and IUD (4 per cent).
Women who were visited by an ASHA during the study period were 1.9 times more likely to be using modern contraceptive methods, and more importantly, women who had watched the videos were 4.5 times more likely to be using modern contraceptives, no matter whether they were shown by an ASHA with the app or an SD card.