Supporting Communities to Improve Young People’s Sexual and Reproductive Health

Rebecca Shore

CCP | Program Officer II

This post originally appeared on The Pump, a JSI blog promoting and improving health. 

Written by Kate Plourde, Technical Officer and Joy Cunningham, Technical Advisor both from the USAID-Funded Advancing Partners & Communities Project

© 2006 Shupiwe Suffolk, Courtesy of Photoshare

© 2006 Shupiwe Suffolk, Courtesy of Photoshare

The theme of this year’s World Population Day is Youth Engagement and the Sustainable Development Agenda.  Research demonstrates that investments in adolescent sexual and reproductive health, education, economic opportunity, and gender equality can lead to reductions in poverty. Young people’s sexuality, sexual behavior, and reproductive health are influenced by the expectations, norms, and practices of peers, parents, and other adults in the communities in which they live. Institutions such as faith-based organizations, schools, clubs, and social networks affect young people’s roles and responsibilities in the community, as well as their access to reproductive and sexual health information and services.

Involving members of the wider community, as well as young people themselves, in reproductive health and HIV/AIDS programs is essential in order to build an enabling environment for young people to improve their well-being and health. Involving communities also increases the potential to reach youth who are not in school or who are otherwise more at risk (for example, orphans and vulnerable children).

Advancing Partners & Communities (APC), a five-year project funded and managed by USAID’s Office of Population and Reproductive Health, recognizes the importance of addressing the unique needs of adolescents as part of a comprehensive approach to strengthening community health systems and programs. We support youth-serving organizations and youth programming through capacity building and small grants; aim to improve youth sexual and reproductive health by implementing innovative projects; and work to advance global learning in community-based youth approaches through the dissemination of best practices and lessons learned at the global, regional, and national levels.

In Asia, where sixty percent of the world’s young people live, and the Middle East, which has one of the youngest populations in the world, we are supporting the development of local expertise in gender-sensitive youth programming through small grants and capacity building.  APC is also developing an online resource with aggregated data on youth sexual and reproductive health in select countries in the Asia and Middle East regions. In Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, we are addressing the needs of adolescents living with and affected by HIV as well as orphans and vulnerable children by adapting Positive Connections: Leading Information and Support Groups for Adolescents Living with HIV. Its adaptation will help meet the needs of the local context and populations not addressed in the original version. As well, we are providing technical expertise to update country-level HIV care and treatment guidelines in these Caribbean countries.

In Tanzania, we are adapting m4RH, an opt-in text-message-based program that provides young people with information on the full range of contraceptive methods, HIV, pregnancy, and puberty. Along with messages about key sexual and reproductive health topics, m4RH also offers a clinic locator database, bi-weekly informational messages, and role-model stories that model healthy behavior. We are also conducting innovative work to improve young people’s sexual and reproductive health in Uganda and Nepal through a variety of interventions including peer education, mobile phone, and other community-based interventions.

Through these projects around the world, APC is supporting the idea that in addition to empowering youth, we must build the capacity of communities to support and sustain the health of their young people.

This piece was made possible through the generous support of the American people through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) under the Advancing Partners & Communities (APC) cooperative agreement number AID-OAA-A-12-00047, funded October 1, 2012, and implemented by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., in partnership with FHI 360. The information provided is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of USAID or the U.S. Government.