Adolescent sexual and reproductive health

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Helpdesk Query:

What is the evidence for the greater impact of having targeted programmes on adolescence in achieving broader sexual and reproductive health (SRH) goals?


This helpdesk identified a number of reviews on adolescent SRH. Key findings include:

  • Facilitating school attendance reduces childbearing and schools are an effective platform for reproductive health education.
  • To improve access and use one review recommends: enacting and implementing laws and policies requiring education and reproductive health services, building community support for contraception provision; providing sexuality education within and outside of school settings; and making health services adolescent-friendly.
  • Adolescent childbearing and early marriage are detrimental to girls’ health, school completion, and long-term earning potential, and their babies’ health and development, contributing to poverty at the household and national level.
  • Involving adolescents in the planning process improved effectiveness, as did programmes sustained over long periods.
  • Social marketing and behaviour change communication interventions have been effective in increasing contraceptive uptake, but had low impact on effective use and continuation.
  • Mobile phones and social media are promising means of increasing contraceptive use among adolescents.
  • A rights-based approach to adolescent fertility is recommended and shifting focus from the proximate to distal causes of pregnancy, including human rights abuses, gender inequality, child marriage, and socioeconomic marginalisation.
  • In providing adolescent friendly services recommended approaches use a combination of health-worker training, adolescent-friendly facility improvements and broad information dissemination via the community, schools, and mass media.
  • Cash transfers are effective in motivating change in a variety of settings.

Difficulty in drawing conclusions on the best practice for improving SRH for adolescents is noted within many of the reviews.

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