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Success Stories

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Family Planning Information in Dnipropetrovsk Oblast is Just a Phone Call Away

Telephone counselors answer calls at Apteka No. 1 in Dnipropetrovsk City. (Photo: R. Criswell)
Telephone counselors answer calls at Apteka No. 1 in Dnipropetrovsk City. (Photo: R. Criswell)

September 2009 - With USAID assistance, the population of Dnipropetrovsk Oblast now has a new way to receive family planning and reproductive health (FP/RH) information as a part of the growing network of FP/RH services and resources in the region. With help from the Together for Health project (TfH), pharmacy chain Apteka No. 1 and the NGO Women's Information-Coordination Center (WICC) have launched telephone hotlines that individuals can call to receive objective, accurate, and confidential information about FP/RH, supported by networks of TfH-trained health professionals and pharmacists.

Founded in Dnipropetrovsk City in 2004, Apteka No. 1 initiated a medical hotline in 2005 when they realized that clients and pharmacists needed a reliable source of information about health and medications. The hotline is operated by a team of seven trained telephone counselors and runs daily during business hours. The operators answer calls from clients as well as from pharmacists seeking health information in order to better serve their customers. The pharmacy chain maintains good relations with local doctors, so when the telephone operators are not able to answer questions, they can contact medical professionals for further information or referrals. While the telephone center is located in Dnipropetrovsk City, the pharmacy chain works in seven oblasts, and the telephone hotline serves all of these regions.

When Apteka No. 1 got involved with the TfH pharmacy trainings, the chain took advantage of the opportunity to train all of their telephone operators. According to Yevgeny Chernev, a telephone operator who is also a TfH trainer, the information in the trainings allowed the telephone counselors to add FP/RH information to the already-wide array of health topics they cover. Callers had often asked about the side effects of certain contraceptives or about newer hormonal methods, and Chernev says he and his colleagues now feel more confident answering these questions with qualified, evidence-based information. He adds that the telephone operators frequently use the TfH print materials provided in the trainings to answer callers' questions. From the project's perspective, the investment in training the hotline operators was a wise one, since Apteka No. 1 already had a "constituency" who could be reached with FP/RH information at no additional cost to the project. As for the clients of Apteka No. 1, they benefited from having another channel from which to receive qualified FP/RH information associated with an institution they already trust.

The trainings helped the pharmacy chain to strengthen not only its telephone hotline, but also the network of FP/RH resources that stand behind the hotline. The networking portion of the TfH trainings—sharing names of TfH-trained doctors and pharmacists—was helpful for Apteka No. 1's phone operators because it helped them to expand their network of consulting doctors and improve the quality of service the hotline provides on both of these levels. Julia Garonenko, the director of Apteka No. 1, reports that since the trainings, the telephone center was able to answer more calls about family planning.

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