In response to longstanding concerns around the quality of female sterilization services provided at public health facilities in India, the Government of India issued standards and quality assurance guidelines for female sterilization services in 2014. However, implementation remains a challenge. The Maternal and Child Survival Program rolled out a package of competency-based trainings, periodic mentoring, and easy-to-use job aids in parts of five states to increase service providers' adherence to key practices identified in the guidelines.
The study employed a before-and-after quasi-experimental design with a matched comparison arm to examine the effect of the intervention on provider practices in two states: Odisha and Chhattisgarh. Direct observations of female sterilization services were conducted in selected public health facilities, using a checklist of 30 key practices, at two points in time. Changes in adherence to key practices from baseline to endline were compared at 12 intervention and 12 comparison facilities using a difference in difference analysis.
Several key practices were well-established prior to the intervention, with adherence levels over 90% at baseline, including hemoglobin and urine testing, use of sterile surgical gloves and instruments, and recommended surgical technique. However, adherence to many other practices was extremely low at baseline. The program significantly increased adherence to nine practices, including those related to ascertaining client's medical eligibility, client-provider interaction, the consent process, and post-operative care. The greatest improvement was observed in the provision of written instructions for clients prior to discharge. At endline, however, adherence remained below 50% for 14 practices.
Low adherence to key practices at baseline confirmed the need for quality improvement interventions in female sterilization services. While the intervention improved adherence to certain practices around admission and post-operative care, inadequate human resources and infrastructure, among other factors, may have blunted the impact of the intervention.