Provision of reproductive health (RH) services is a minimum standard of health care in humanitarian settings; however access to these services is often limited. This systematic review, one component of a global evaluation of RH in humanitarian settings, sought to explore the evidence regarding RH services provided in humanitarian settings and to determine if programs are being evaluated. In addition, the review explored which RH services receive more attention based on program evaluations and descriptive data. Peer-reviewed papers published between 2004 and 2013 were identified via the Ovid MEDLINE database, followed by a PubMed search. Papers on quantitative evaluations of RH programs, including experimental and non-experimental designs that reported outcome data, implemented in conflict and natural disaster settings, were included. Of 5,669 papers identified in the initial search, 36 papers describing 30 programs met inclusion criteria. Twenty-five papers described programs in sub-Saharan Africa, six in Asia, two in Haiti and three reported data from multiple countries. Some RH technical areas were better represented than others: seven papers reported on maternal and newborn health (including two that also covered family planning), six on family planning, three on sexual violence, 20 on HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and two on general RH topics. In comparison to the program evaluation papers identified, three times as many papers were found that reported RH descriptive or prevalence data in humanitarian settings. While data demonstrating the magnitude of the problem are crucial and were previously lacking, the need for RH services and for evaluations to measure their effectiveness is clear. Program evaluation and implementation science should be incorporated into more programs to determine the best ways to serve the RH needs of people affected by conflict or natural disaster. Standard program design should include rigorous program evaluation, and the results must be shared. The papers demonstrated both that RH programs can be implemented in these challenging settings, and that women and men will use RH services when they are of reasonable quality.
Author: Casey, Sara E