Testing the validity and feasibility of using a mobile phone-based method to assess the strength of implementation of family planning programs in Malawi

Anooj Pattnaik, Diwakar Mohan, Sam Chipokosa, Sautso Wachepa, Hans Katengeza, Amos Misomali, Melissa A. Marx

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: To effectively deliver on proposed objectives, it is vital that practitioners, policymakers, and other stakeholders are able to clearly understand how strongly their large-scale program is being implemented. This study sought to test the feasibility, cost-effectiveness, and validity of a phone-based method as an innovative and cost-efficient approach to assessing program implementation strength (through an Implementation Strength Assessment-ISA), alternative to the traditional in-person field methods. Methods: We conducted 701 mobile phone and 356 in-person interviews with facility in-Charges and two types of community health workers who provide family planning services in the Dowa and Ntcheu districts in Malawi. Responses received via the phone interview were validated through in-person review of records and inspections. Sensitivity and specificity were calculated to determine validity. Results: Most indicators at the health facility and community health worker levels were above a 70% threshold for sensitivity. However, there were fewer indicators that met this threshold for specificity. The primary reason for lower specificity was due to poor recordkeeping. Collecting data via mobile phone was found to be feasible and twice as cost-efficient as collecting the same data via in-person inspections. Conclusions: The rapid increase in mobile phone ownership and network availability in lower income countries could offer an alternative, cost-effective avenue to collect data for a better understanding of program implementation. Through rigorous assessment, this study found that using mobile phones could be a low-cost alternative to collect data on health system delivery of services, especially in places where routine data quality is poor and traditional, in-person methods are costly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number221
JournalBMC health services research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 17 2020


  • Family planning
  • Health worker
  • Implementation strength
  • Malawi
  • Mobile phones
  • Sensitivity
  • Sexual and reproductive health
  • Specificity
  • Validation
  • Youth
  • Youth friendly health services

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy


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