Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Prof. Judy Lewis, Dr. Stacey Brown, Dr. Stephen Schensul

Field of Study

Public Health


Master of Public Health

Open Access

Open Access


Introduction: According to Panama’s 2009 National Sexual and Reproductive Health Survey, only 19% of indigenous women in Panama use modern family planning (FP) methods. Despite the Ngäbe representing 62% of the indigenous population, there is limited research on their use of FP.

Methodology: 14 Ngäbe communities in Bocas del Toro were surveyed. Women between the ages of 18 and 50, and had >2 children completed a survey to assess knowledge, attitudes, and practices regarding family planning.

Results: A total of 148 women were enrolled, mean age was 32.18; mean number of pregnancies was 5. 32.4% of women were currently using FP while 40.5% of women have never used any FP methods. 51% of women had an unmet need for FP. Respondents with unmet need for FP reported concerns about side effects (32%) and lack of access (21%) as barriers to using FP. Women with indigenous religions were less likely than all other religious groups to use FP (χ2 = 5.2, p = .034). Family planning use was more likely in women who received information on FP during prenatal visits (χ2=8.5, p=.003), who received information on FP from health care providers (χ2=7.5, p=.006), and who talked with a health care provider about FP during the last year (χ2=7.5, p=.006).

Conclusions: There is a clear unmet need for FP among the Ngäbe population. Future interventions could involve community-based outreach that link community members to health care providers to educate about the side effects of modern FP methods and increase access to FP.

Major Advisor

Prof. Judy Lewis