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Adolescents

MCSP is developing a model to improve the quality of health services for adolescents and young mothers and parents. This includes providing the knowledge, skills and services to delay early childbearing, and have healthy pregnancy, birth and postpartum periods (including postnatal care, PPFP and child health practices).

In Nigeria, for example, adolescents 10-19 years old constitute about a fifth of the total population. The country has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy: 23% of adolescent girls 15-19 years old have begun childbearing. Moreover, adolescents tend to have less knowledge and use of contraceptives than older women. And while the national contraceptive prevalence is 16% and 9.8% of all married women using a modern method of contraception, only 1.2% of married adolescent girls do so. Adolescent Nigerian mothers are also less likely to use maternal health services.

Country-specific approaches vary according to the adolescent population. However, MCSP work generally begins with a review of existing assessments or a formative assessment with girls (both married and unmarried) to identify barriers to the use of key services and other practices. These include health timing and spacing of pregnancy, as well as underlying gender norms that drive girls’ decisions. Strategies are then developed to expand access to contraceptives for this age group, with an emphasis on fostering adolescent-responsive care.

Health workers are supported with age- and stage-specific counseling tools for each type of contact in a health facility. These workers are oriented on adolescent development, best practices, and age-specific counseling skills. The MCSP toolkit also includes a quality improvement process through Partnership Defined Quality for Youth (PDQ-Y), in which girls and boys define and support a quality improvement process in collaboration with community leaders and health workers.

Other community strategies complement facility-based work and seek to transform gender norms to actively engage youth through various locally relevant strategies, involving both girls and male partners. For young parents, strategies seek to develop:

  • Mother support groups;
  • Young father involvement in reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health care;
  • Prevention of violence in the home; and
  • Increased couple communication.
Mother and baby in Dhaka slums, India
Photo: Jhpiego