BELIZE CITY, Thurs. Nov. 2, 2023
The Pan American Health Organization/ World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) recently hosted an open dialogue event and rolled out a massive social media campaign in commemoration of its Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Week, which was observed from October 16-20, 2023, to reach young people and stakeholders, as the Latin America and Caribbean region grapples with the second highest adolescent fertility rates worldwide.
Alison Drayton, Assistant Secretary General of the Directorate of Human and Social Development at the CARICOM Secretariat, underscored the need for young people to seek resources as required, and for policymakers to evaluate their strategies to mitigate the negative impacts of early sexual activities.
“It is essential for youths to know that youth-friendly health facilities are available where they can seek non-judgmental help, counseling, and pregnancy prevention services if they are already sexually active or considering becoming sexually active,” said Drayton.
According to PAHO/WHO, the social media campaign is a “beacon of hope” that uses global connectivity to expand awareness, foster engagements and promote change across Central America and the Caribbean.
PAHO’s regional open-dialogue event on October 18, entitled ‘Addressing Adolescents’ Sexual and Reproductive Health Concerns and Pregnancy, was an interactive platform promoting open dialogue with policymakers, to address the concerns and present strategies aimed at reducing adolescent pregnancies in the Caribbean.
During the opening remarks, PAHO Advisor for HIV/STI, TB, and Viral Hepatitis, Ms. Sandra Jones, on behalf of the PAHO Caribbean Sub-Regional Director, indicated, “At PAHO, we continue to make adolescent pregnancy a major focus because it affects the trajectory of a young girl’s life.”
According to Jones, extensive studies have also revealed that adolescent pregnancy also hampers their psycho-social development and leads to poor health outcomes for not only them, but their children. Adolescent pregnancy has also been known to negatively impact educational and employment opportunities for young girls, thereby leading to intergenerational cycles of poor health and poverty.
Being fully cognizant that adolescent pregnancy ramifications stretch well beyond immediate health concerns, PAHO said that its far-reaching social-economic implications, compounded by the effect of the pandemic and its disruption in healthcare access, further emphasize the urgency of the situation and initiatives aimed at its reduction.
The Adolescent Health Roadmap for the Caribbean, which identified vital strategies, was introduced during the Caribbean Congress on Adolescent and Youth Health of 2019. Those strategies include ensuring access for adolescents to comprehensive and age-appropriate information, education, and adolescent-friendly comprehensive services. These would allow adolescents to make informed choices about their sexuality and reproductive lives, to adequately protect themselves from unintended pregnancies, sexually transmitted infections, and HIV.
According to PAHO, the roadmap would be able to assist adolescents to transition safely and happily into adulthood, while prioritizing youth involvement in health service design with an emphasis on confidentiality and stigma reduction, and advocating for preventive measures that focus on education, skills, and creating a conducive environment.
The Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Week was inaugurated in 2020 and enjoys the support of CARICOM and other stakeholders. The program reiterates the importance of youth-centric health planning and actions and encourages countries across the Caribbean to bolster their efforts with national events. It also emphasizes the urgency to mitigate adolescent pregnancy by uniting under one cause.
The campaign and program are being funded by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).