Technologies for Reproductive Health

Woman’s Condom market development

Building toward sustainable markets

PATH's work across the value chain.

PATH works across the value chain to innovate, introduce, and integrate new technologies into health systems in developing countries. Image: PATH.

Research and development are the first of several phases in the journey to bring a new technology from concept to widespread use. Introduction activities, which include developing and testing markets, are essential next steps toward the eventual end goal of integration into health systems for sustained health impact.

The Woman’s Condom is at an exciting point in this journey. No longer in research and development, the product is now in early introduction. Through the Protection Options for Women Product Development Partnership, PATH and Dahua Medical Apparatus Company (Dahua) are working to introduce the Woman’s Condom in developing-country markets and to explore strategies to increase access. We are focusing first on testing market strategies in China and sub-Saharan Africa to inform future introduction.

  • In China, the Woman’s Condom is available in limited distribution channels. While Dahua is working on a private-sector strategy in China, PATH is working with public-sector organizations to collect information on acceptability and uptake among various target market segments in different distribution channels. Findings from these market tests will help government officials determine whether to include the Woman’s Condom in China’s family planning and sexually transmitted infection (STI)/HIV-prevention programs.
  • In sub-Saharan Africa, market test activities are under way in South Africa. In 2013, Dahua received the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS) certification mark for the Woman’s Condom, which is important in assuring buyers in South Africa that the product meets international safety and quality requirements. PATH is now working with research partners in South Africa to assess uptake and acceptability among various target markets and distribution channels outside the public sector.

Market development activities

Market development refers to a range of activities that include establishing manufacturing, gaining regulatory approvals, selecting markets with the greatest opportunity of uptake and impact, identifying target user groups, and creating distribution and marketing channels to reach these users. Building supply and generating demand lie at the heart of our market development and initial introduction efforts for the Woman’s Condom.

Building supply

Because PATH does not manufacture the health technologies we develop, it was important for us to find a commercial partner to take on this role. We conducted a rigorous assessment of potential manufacturers in five countries. As a result, we identified the Dahua Medical Apparatus Company of Shanghai, China, as the most qualified partner. Dahua is a high-quality manufacturer with expertise in thin film products, which makes the company ideally suited to produce the Woman’s Condom.

In 2008, PATH licensed the Woman’s Condom to Dahua for manufacturing and distribution. Since then, Dahua has worked on creating product for clinical trials, scaling production processes, and submitting regulatory applications.

Dahua is now focused on scaling production capacity and improving automation of the Woman’s Condom. These pieces are critical for achieving the volume and cost targets needed to meet anticipated demand and create health impact.

Generating demand

Working closely with Dahua, PATH is engaging in demand-creation activities for the Woman’s Condom. This involves:

  • Identifying user groups, including those likely to be early adopters.
  • Understanding the needs and behaviors of these users.
  • Creating appropriate distribution and marketing channels to reach these users.

PATH is conducting market research in China and South Africa to help us understand who is likely to use and purchase the Woman’s Condom, what product attributes and messages resonate most with these user groups, and how best to reach these individuals. On behalf of Dahua, PATH is facilitating relationships with local partners such as social marketing firms and commercial distributors to program and distribute the Woman’s Condom. Additional information about this stream of work can be found on our China and sub-Saharan Africa pages.

Market development strategy

We are applying a total market approach with the aim of creating sustainable markets for the Woman’s Condom. A total market approach is defined as “a coordinated approach that responds to the multiplicity of family planning needs in a country…[and] ensures that the entire market of clients—from those who require free supplies to those who can and will pay for commercial products—is covered.”i

Our strategy is to first introduce the Woman’s Condom through private-sector channels to consumers who are able to pay a higher price. It is our hope that revenue generated from private-sector sales can be used by Dahua to subsidize distribution and programming in the public sector. This type of approach—which can help create financial sustainability for Dahua and its distribution partners—will enable us to better serve low-resource communities over the long run.

In this way, we are working hard to achieve our ultimate vision: that the Woman’s Condom will be a broadly available and affordable option for those seeking dual protection.

i  Barnes J, Vail J, Crosby D. Total Market Initiatives for Reproductive Health. Bethesda, MD: Strengthening Health Outcomes Through the Private Sector Project, Abt Associates; 2012.