Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Current attention to increasing access to family planning has increased focus on ensuring that policy, programming, and practice are “evidence-based.” This paper seeks to answer when, what types, and how evidence is used in decision-making related to family planning. Views of what constitutes evidence need to be more aligned: researchers should understand that “evidence-based” does not only mean “research evidence-based” to decision-makers; and decision-makers must understand the value of robust research evidence among other evidence they consider when making decisions. Decision-makers appreciate research but it is only one factor they take into consideration—and may not be the most influential factor in their decision-making. Research findings tend to be filtered through decision-makers’ values and beliefs in addition to political, economic, and social considerations. Examples from the family planning field reinforce the persistence of other factors affecting decision-making. A number of promising interventions show that research evidence, vis a vis other factors, can inform decision-making. Expecting policy or program change from single studies is mostly unrealistic, but examples from decades of family planning programming described in this paper illustrate the incremental influence of evidence from research on family planning policies and programs.






The Evidence Project