Researchers from the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) in collaboration with colleagues from the Eastern Mediterranean Public Health Network (EMPHNET) and the Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST) have been awarded a competitive grant to conduct a three-year research project entitled “Mobile technology and enhanced counseling to improve family planning among Syrian refugees and host communities in Lebanon and Jordan."
The project aims to develop, implement, and evaluate data-driven strategies to encourage the adoption of quality family planning services among vulnerable host communities and Syrian refugees living in Lebanon and Jordan. “By working closely with midwives, nurses and doctors, as well as strengthening community outreach to actively meet needs of populations who tend not to visit health centers," said Dr. Marco Bardus, the project leader and principal investigator for the branch of the study in Lebanon. The FHS team includes Drs. Sawsan Abdulrahim, Jocelyn DeJong, and Maia Sieverding as co-investigators. The team based in Jordan includes Dr. Mohannad Al Nsour and Samar Abdelnour from EMPHNET, and Prof. Yousef Khader and Dr. Mohammad Al-Yahia from JUST.
“The project will likely include interventions providing targeted information on contraceptive choices and support for continued and correct use through follow up messages. In this project, we will explore the development of mobile health applications to support these activities, while ensuring appropriate data governance to protect individuals' privacy and confidentiality," added Dr. Bardus.
Strengthening gender equality and inclusion is one of the main features of the project through providing tailored information and specific services to women from vulnerable segments of the population, allowing them and their partners to make informed decisions about family planning strategies and practices. The study is based on a participatory approach, whereby advisory committees will be established in Lebanon and Jordan; these committees will include representatives from the target populations and relevant stakeholders.
Lebanon and Jordan have been particularly affected by the Syrian conflict with the influx of Syrian refugees over the past years. The lack of or limited access to family planning among refugee populations in these countries have impacted women, putting them at high risk of a range of adverse outcomes that have lifelong implications. Although the use of mobile health technology for behavior change related to family planning has shown positive results, limited evidence exists for the use of this kind of technology among refugee populations, especially in Lebanon and Jordan.
This regional project was approved by the Maternal and Child Health program at the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in September 2019. The Maternal and Child Health program aims to save and improve the lives of women, adolescents, and children by developing solutions through implementation research that promotes the systematic uptake of evidence-based research into routine practice and policies and ultimately improves the quality, accessibility, and effectiveness of health services and care.