Health & Fitness

Change tack on contraceptives campaign

A family: Recent abortion searches report shows something is wrong with  marketing ‘contraception products.’ Photo/File
A family: Recent abortion searches report shows something is wrong with marketing ‘contraception products.’ Photo/File 

Discourse on the recommendations to promote two children per family has drawn lots of comments from the public. Media reports suggesting that Kenyans’ top online search is how to secure abortion has further stoked the debate.

Last week, the radio shows were full of views and experiences on the subject and interesting developments came to the fore.

Confessions from married couples who are apparently among the top consumers of these services are, if anything, worrying. The bigger question is why “the contraception product” is failing and how we can arrest this trend.

While more resources are being channelled towards increasing the supply of contraceptives, a visit to rural facilities shows that they are among the most commonly expired drugs; they are rarely used. Similarly, condoms also have ‘longer shelf lives’ in most rural areas.

A line of thought is that it is because the initiative has largely been government-driven. Would it be better if the push was packaged as a product and businesses competed to sell it? The other question is whether the problem is the product or the marketing. Some think it is the former. In business, even the best marketers will have difficulty pushing a difficult product.

While science has made great strides regarding contraceptives, they have had one or two inherent “issues” rendering their uptake lukewarm, especially the hormonal ones.

Of all of contraceptives, condoms offer the most potential for solving this problem. They are free of the most cited reason for apathy towards contraceptives: hormonal content and lower STI transmission risks. However, its use is reduced due to apparent “reduction of pleasure in intercourse.”

Silver bullet

Addressing these issues will make it the silver bullet contraceptive. Changing perception on a product greatly influences choice and use.

An experiment with two unbranded condom types — one ordinary and the others scented, flavoured, long-lasting and studded — were placed side by side in separate dispensers. The response sought is whether one’s product perception influences promotion of condom use.

The users were then secretly monitored and most were taken from the “special type” dispenser. Even after it was used up, the other dispenser was rarely touched, suggesting that perception on product “performance” counts.

Rural areas

True, the experiment was in a group of college students whose tastes have been influenced by media adverts and peers, but similarities are observed in rural areas. Faced with such a choice, most of my female clients who do not prefer their partners to use condoms would change mind if they were guaranteed the usual or more pleasure.

Convincing people to increase condom uptake is the first step towards winning abortion war. Old strategies of merely supplying them will not work. Novel strategies are needed to change this. Perhaps time is ripe for a contest to design and develop “the ultimate condom.” Otherwise the associated apathy will continue.

Whoever tackles the two issues around its low use will be assured of rewards.

The writer is a medical doctor. Feedback: [email protected] Twitter:@edwardomete.