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Open Access Research article

Community experiences and perceptions of reproductive health vouchers in Kenya

Rebecca Njuki1*, Francis Obare1, Charlotte Warren1, Timothy Abuya1, Jerry Okal1, Wilson Mukuna2, Lucy Kanya1, Ian Askew1, Piet Bracke3 and Ben Bellows1

Author affiliations

1 Population Council, P.O. Box 17643-00200, Nairobi, Kenya

2 Moi University, P.O. BOX 3900, Eldoret, Kenya

3 Ghent University, B-9000, Ghent, Belgium

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Citation and License

BMC Public Health 2013, 13:660  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-660

Published: 16 July 2013

Abstract

Background

Research on demand-side health care financing approaches such as output-based aid (OBA) programs have focused on evaluating the role of the programs improving such outcomes as utilization of services and quality of services with limited focus on the experiences and perceptions of the target communities. This paper examines community members’ views of the output-based aid voucher program in Kenya.

Methods

A household survey was conducted in 2010 among 1,336 women aged 15-49 years living in the catchment areas of contracted health facilities in three districts participating in the voucher program (Kisumu, Kiambu and Kitui). Twenty seven focus group discussions were conducted with voucher users, non-users, opinion leaders and voucher distributors in the three districts as well as in Nairobi. Analysis of the quantitative data involved frequency distributions and cross-tabulations. Qualitative data were transcribed and analyzed by adopting framework analysis and further triangulation of themes across respondents.

Results

Majority (84%) of survey respondents had heard about the safe motherhood voucher compared to 24% and 1% that had heard about the family planning and gender-based violence recovery services (GBVRS) vouchers respectively. Similarly, 20% of the respondents had used the safe motherhood voucher compared to 2% for family planning and none for the GBVRS vouchers. From the community members’ perspectives, the voucher program is associated with improvements in access to health services for poor women, improved quality of care, and empowerment of women to make health care decisions. However, community members cited difficulties in accessing some accredited health facilities, limitations with the system of selling vouchers, lack of male involvement in women’s reproductive health issues, and poor understanding of the benefits associated with purchasing the voucher.

Conclusion

The findings of this paper showed that the voucher program in Kenya is viewed by the community members as a feasible system for increasing service utilization, improving quality of care, and reducing financial barriers to accessing reproductive health services. However, the techniques of program execution such as proper information and availability of the distributors as well as local attitudes influence whether vouchers are purchased and used.