Outreach and training programs impact patients and staff alike
Posted on May 12, 2023
Africa has the youngest population in the world, with 70% of sub-Saharan Africa under the age of 30. Such a high number of young people is an opportunity for the continent’s growth – but only if these new generations are fully able and empowered to live up to their potential.
It is in pursuit of this goal that PIH Canada is proud to be working in partnership with our colleagues in Malawi and Sierra Leone to deliver the No Woman or Girl Left Behind (NWOGLB) project – a five-year intervention funded by Global Affairs Canada to empower young people to lead happy, healthy lives.
The intervention delivers a robust package of services that meets adolescents where they are at – developmentally, emotionally and geographically – and represents a significant shift in approach.
Historically, adolescent health has attracted little interest and few resources. In many ways, that makes sense: adolescence is one of the healthiest times of life, sitting between the peaks of childhood illness and death and chronic disease later in life. From the point of view of health service providers, adolescents seemed to have the fewest needs, so it made sense to focus limited resources elsewhere.
In recent years, that perspective rightly has been upended. In the face of an ever-expanding body of evidence, the global health community has come to realize that investments in adolescent health are essential for unlocking opportunities, not only for the health and wellbeing of young people themselves, but also for the future of society and future generations.
Through the NWOGLB project, our commitment to adolescent health is realized through a two-pronged approach that builds young people’s knowledge about their health through fun and engaging outreach activities while also capacitating the health system and training health care workers to provide specialized care.
For example, PIH Sierra Leone opened a new adolescent- and youth-friendly clinic in 2020. Located at Koidu Government Hospital, the clinic delivers tailored services to young people free of charge. When it opened, it was an instant success: in just four days, it reached as many young people with contraception as it had in the first half of the previous year. Uptake of services has been strong ever since, with 3,500 adolescent visits recorded in 2021.
In Malawi, a major success has been the “Healthy Futures” recreational program delivered to over 1,200 boys and girls aged 10-14. In this program, co-designed with our partner Grassroot Soccer, adolescents learn through sport and play-based activities about their rights, gender norms, family planning, sexual and gender based violence, HIV, sexually transmitted infections, and healthy relationships. Through these activities, they grow more comfortable navigating the health care system and acting as self-advocates.
The programs and others, together with interventions to enhance social and economic wellbeing of young people, are creating better life outcomes for adolescents and the next generation.
When we think of health system strengthening at Partners In Health (PIH), we always refer to five key elements: staff, stuff, space, systems, and social support. We call them the “five S’s” and use them to guide our work every day. Click here to learn more about the five S’s, with concrete examples of PIH’s work.
Every person, no matter who they are or where they’re from, deserves the best health care we know how to offer.
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