How do we deliver sexual reproductive health services and education to adolescents? How do we evaluate the quality and the "stickability factor" for their positive health-seeking behavior? How do we make them care about their health and take responsibility?
Often times, health-seeking behavior is presented to adolescents and young people as something that is good to do, because it is good for their well-being. In a brainstorm session, a group of four people recalled their younger years in relation to health. The memories that came up had these underlying words: adventure, fun, exploration, experimentation, curiosity, and self-improvement. These words all spell the level of risk our younger selves were keen to explore.
This resonated with focus group data that revealed priorities of a young girl between 10 to 19 years old living in an urban area in Kenya.
Her priorities include:
- Aspirations - good education, a social life, being in a relationship
- Influences - family, religion, friends/ peers, fashion
- Concerned about fitting in and what people think of her
- Sources of money - side hustle, sponsor (new slang for sugar daddy)
- Uses for money - looking good, communication, social media, food, supplement to family income
On the flip side, the common barriers to her achieving or being in alignment with these priorities include:
- Money - lack of, access to, need for more
- Literacy barrier - limited knowledge, access, and quality of education
Since health and health education is a secondary need in her list of priorities, she would require any related services and education to make her care. Any health education should be able to build her confidence, empower her (financially or with skills), and help her increase her network and opportunities. Any related services need to show why she should also care while being holistic, dynamic, fun, a trusting environment with the right incentives to ensure it sticks.
Quality for this girl is informed by the responsiveness to her needs, convenience, choice, and safety. The brand appeal also goes a long way to ensure she is with the "in" crowd. It also needs to be affordable and not feel like an obligation.
Therefore, incentives for positive behavior, when in an environment of building confidence, encouraging gender equal attitudes and critical evaluation of social norms could provide the ecosystem necessary to improve young people's access to sexual reproductive health services and education.