Mobile Health Units Study in Latin America and the Caribbean

International Planned Parenthood Federation, Western Hemisphere Region
Jo Ivey Boufford
Giselle Carino, Katie Keil, Sheila Layton, Faith McClellan

While many organizations acknowledge that mobile health units are an innovative strategy to facilitate access to health services to marginalized populations, little rigorous evaluation or formal research has been implemented to substantiate these claims. In response to the absence of formal research, International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR) in collaboration with the Capstone team initiated a study to research and showcase best practices in mobile service delivery through case studies from member associations that are currently operating different models in Colombia, Guatemala and Trinidad &Tobago. The purpose of the study is to understand from the perspective of project managers, coordinators, providers and clients, the most important steps in assessing need and developing and operating mobile units in resource-poor settings to deliver effective and high-quality services in a reliable and sustainable way. The project began with a literature review to determine the state of the field, mobile unit projects were identified in three countries, the study protocol and interview guides were developed and then IPPF/WHR staff along with the Capstone team carried out site visits to gather data. The research outlines practical recommendations for program planners in the field on how to plan, implement, monitor and evaluate reproductive health service provision using mobile unit models, while identifying key elements that contribute to effectiveness, including the documentation of factors that should be incorporated when planning to implement a mobile unit strategy such as quality of care, cost and staffing. The study also documents challenges encountered and lessons learned.