Blue Star- an innovative program to mobilize non-formal heath providers
The Blue Star Program (BSP) is a social franchising network of community level Private Medical Practitioners, who receive training on family planning, reproductive health and other public health priority areas so that they can provide quality services to the customers they serve. The vision of Blue Star is to create a network of skilled community level health providers offering a wide variety of public health products/services and referrals to improve health, family planning and nutrition related indicators within the community. Initially the program started with Injectable contraceptive services in 1998 and has now expanded to referral of Long Acting and Permanent Methods, referral of suspected TB cases and basic Maternal and Neonatal Health services including nutrition. At present, over 6,000 Blue Star Providers (BSPs) are active under the network. Extensive efforts are currently being made to expand the number further and increase the type of services that can be offered through the network. The program is being implemented in close collaboration with Director General of Family Planning of Bangladesh.
Blue Star providers are selected based on certain criteria that include a minimum SSC level education, at least minimum three years of practicing experience, not involved in promotion and provision of MR/abortion services, satisfactory female client load and interest to join Blue Star network. Potential providers also need to be willing to attend training programs and adhere to the quality of care standards and protocols suggested by SMC
The providers receive three days’ basic training, which is organized in collaboration with Directorate General of Family Planning. The basic training curriculum includes family planning methods focusing on Injectable, referral for Long Acting and Permanent Method, counseling skills, Healthy Timing and Spacing of Pregnancy, maternal health (which include antenatal care and safe delivery), postnatal care, essential new born care, integrated management of childhood illness focusing on ARI/pneumonia, diarrhoea, tuberculosis, child nutrition, record keeping and reporting. Periodical newsletter “ALAAP” is also distributed among the BSPs to update their knowledge on various technical areas as well as sharing best practices by the BSPs.
Comprehensive demand creation activities are being implemented to promote Blue Star outlets and the network using both local and mass media. SMC organized 12 regional workshops in the recent past to create an opportunity to learn from each other and improve performance through recognition and motivation.
At the field level, 18 Program Officers - Field Operation and two Program Coordinators closely supervise the program, and provide on-site technical assistance to the providers to ensure quality of care and offer services across the country. The field staff are backed by a professional team located at SMC’s head office.
An injectable contraceptive Depo-Provera, over-branded by SMC as SOMA-JECT, is being offered by the BSPs. The program accounts for 20 percent of Injectable CPR nationally. SMC, in collaboration with the National TB Program (NTP), introduced Directly Observed Treatment Short Course (DOTS) services to increase coverage of TB services, as a part of the national program. The Blue Star providers also refer suspected TB cases to the nearest service delivery centers for sputum test and necessary treatment.