The Maximum Contraceptive Prevalence Demand Curve

Many countries struggle to achieve the right balance of investments between expanding family planning services and undertaking social and behavior change (SBC) activities. If countries allocate too few resources to SBC, then investments to improve family planning services may fall short of their potential impact. If there is not enough support for expanded services, then countries may not be able to meet demand. Understanding this balance is important to help identify opportunities and limitations and prioritize resources to ensure effective family planning programs.

What does the ‘demand curve’ tell us?

The maximum contraceptive prevalence ‘demand curve’ was developed by Track20 to allow for a simple assessment of this balance; the concept has also been built into the FP Goals model. The curve represents the likely maximum mCPR that could be reached in a country given their level of demand. The curve was created by fitting an exponential curve to the maximum of all available DHS survey data on mCPR and ideal number of children, an indicator that represents a broad range of social and cultural norms that influence the motivation to use, or not use, contraception.

The gap between where a country sits on the graph and the curve is called the “potential use gap,” and can be interpreted as follows:

  • In countries where the gap is small or modest (indicated by a red or orange dot on the graphic), future growth in mCPR may be limited without further changes in demand. This could mean a need to prioritize interventions that address underlying social norms in these countries, or, at a minimum, to set realistic expectations about future growth given the context.
  • In countries where the gap is large (indicated by a green dot on the graphic), there is likely room for further mCPR growth from investments to improve and expand family planning service delivery. Demand in these countries is less likely to be a constraint.
  • Finally, this concept is not considered applicable in countries where the mean ideal number of children is low (indicated by a grey dot on the graphic).

Regardless of a country’s position in the graphic, additional analysis is likely to be helpful in understanding barriers to uptake. Even in countries with a small gap, there could be a need for some demand-side interventions, such as addressing knowledge or information, or, making communities aware of service availability. In addition, while this graphic shows the national picture in each country, there is often very large subnational variation across states or regions.

Source: FP2020 Progress Report: The Way Ahead 2016-2017

How does this concept vary across countries?

In the map below, countries are shaded based on the size of their ‘potential use gap’ at the time of their most recent DHS survey; based on mean ideal number of children and married mCPR.

Understanding sub-national variation

The graphs below show examples of sub-national demand curves in India and Nigeria. As can be seen in both countries, the national level data hides a large amount of sub-national variation. Examining a countries demand curve sub-nationally allows for this data to help inform strategic planning and prioritization of different types on interventions.

Sub-national demand curves can be found for all countries with available data on the “Additional Analysis” tab Track20's country pages.