Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith - 2016 Nominee
Position: Doctor/researcher
Organization: London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine
Chris led on the first trial of mHealth support for post-abortion family planning; reducing unmet need using technology in Cambodia, leading to high impact publications and presentations. He also co-organises a MSc family planning teaching module. – Michelle Helena van Velthoven, Honorary research fellow at Imperial College London
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

I have contributed to evidence on mHealth and contraception. I was the lead investigator on the MOTIF (MObile Technology for Improved Family Planning) trial in Cambodia; which involved the design, implementation and evaluation of a mHealth intervention for post-abortion family planning; with Marie Stopes International, LSHTM and InSTEDD (our tech partner). We demonstrated that this support is feasible and can increase contraception uptake and continuation. We have published in high impact journals and I also led on a Cochrane review of mHealth interventions for contraception to contribute to the global evidence base. I also co-organise and teach on a family planning programmes MSc module at my university and work to improve contraception services where I work locally as a doctor in London

What sparked your passion for family planning?

Working in Cambodia to improve health services at rural health centres. We went round houses asking what services they wanted; and many people said family planning methods; women and men! So we set up a basic family planning service at the health post and provided training to the staff and it started from then

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your family planning efforts, and what have you done to overcome it?

Contraceptive discontinuation or non-use due to fear of side-effects; I've heard many myths and rumours working in many countries; as also captured in the demographic and health surveys. Our MOTIF intervention comprised automated messages and counsellor support via mobile phone; meaning that women in the most rural and remote areas were able to get good quality information and support; reminders about contraceptive methods, reassurance about side-effects to support continuation or safe-switching

What is your (country/region/city)’s biggest challenge in family planning, and how can it be addressed?

In my opinion the biggest challenge is lack of good quality information. Contraceptive commodities are often available, but discontinuation is common due to fear of side-effects, and myths and rumours are common all over the world. I see this whilst working as a doctor in London as well as when conducting research in Cambodia. Assess to good quality information, whether it be via counselling, messaging, webs sites or apps can play a really important role in providing reassurance and choice

What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?

To work with great teams on the research/service provider interface to implement and evaluate innovative eHealth/digital interventions to support contraceptive use - to establish what works best, is safe and cost-effective and share that learning with the global family planning community; and shift from pilots to scaled-up interventions. I can envisage a programme of research studies that could further our knowledge in the field of eHealth and contraception to discuss with potential funders!

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