Adolescent Friendly Reproductive Health Services
Adolescence is that age when an individual begins to assert his or her independence and break the boundaries set by the parents. It is the stage when questioning authority and engaging in risky behavior such as substance abuse, smoking, drinking alcohol and unprotected sexual activity begins. Often, these activities lead to violence, disrupted schooling, unwanted pregnancy, abortion, illness and even death. And instead of turning to adults or authorities for guidance and counseling, teens often seek solace and advice from their often equally clueless peers.
To save the wayward youths, gain their trust, and entice them to engage in productive work, the Parañaque City government embarked on a project they dubbed as the Adolescent Friendly Reproductive Health Services (AFRHS). The project was implemented in collaboration with various groups like Save the Children Philippines, Department of Health and other Local Government Units (LGUs). The overall objective of the project is to promote and provide quality health services that are responsive to the needs and protective of the rights of adolescents by involving various sectors in the communities.
What sets the project apart is the effort to elicit the youth’s participation. In the Adolescent Defined Quality (ADQ) process, the adolescents themselves identified the kind of reproductive health services that they needed and became involved in planning, implementation and evaluation of the different interventions.
In the pilot areas of San Dionisio and BF Homes, the health centers were renovated to create special rooms devoted to counseling and treating adolescent clients. The Health Service Providers (HSP) in these two pilot areas were also trained to handle adolescents.
A referral system was also put in place so that the adolescent clients can be cared for by other appropriate social service agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development, Philippine National Police, Department of Education and the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children. This integrated referral system provides a continuum of social services for the adolescent and makes the community or LGU resources and institutions more accessible.
From 2005 to 2006, several trainings on peer education were conducted. The core group of trained volunteer peer educators are now using the acquired skills in the AFRHS facilities. They motivate and encourage adolescents to visit the facility, help out in the admission of clients, promote healthy lifestyles and conduct AFRHS orientations to adolescent clients.
An Adolescent Health Information System (AFHIS) is in place to track adolescent clients. This measures the performance of the integrated adolescent friendly reproductive health services. The program also integrates an Alternative Learning System to provide education and skills for the out-of-school youth. To date, there are 120 OSYs attending the ALS classes in the two pilot areas.
The improvements encouraged health seeking behavior among adolescents as evidenced by the 20% increase in the number of adolescent clients who availed of the different adolescent friendly reproductive health services in 2007. The youth have also organized themselves into a self-help group and now take pride in becoming role models and instruments of change for those still errant adolescents.
Through collaboration with other stakeholders like other government organizations, NGOs, civic and people’s organizations, the youth in Parañaque are now involved not only in reproductive health but also in environmental management. For instance, AFRHS peer educators and other youth volunteers spearheaded the clean up drive in Masville, a congested slum district in Parañaque City. The clean up drive entailed proper waste disposal, garbage segregation and composting.
From the two pilot areas in Barangay San Dionisio and BF Homes, the program has been replicated in five more barangays in 2006, namely: Barangay Vitalez, Moonwalk, Sunvalley, Merville and San Martin de Porres. The City of Parañaque is confident that it will soon see a declining rate of teenage pregnancy, abortion, and sexually transmitted diseases.