On March 4, Knowledge SUCCESS & Family Planning 2030 (FP2030) hosted the first session in the third set of conversations in the Connecting Conversations series, One Size Does Not Fit All: Reproductive Health Services Within the Greater Health System Must Respond to Young People’s Diverse Needs. This session focused on how we can shift to an adolescent responsive approach and why a health systems approach is important for addressing the reproductive health needs of adolescents. Missed this session? Read the summary below or access the recordings (in English or French).
Dr. Baltag started off by acknowledging that most resources are in the health sector, so we need to use existing resources to serve adolescents. Spending is disproportionately allocated for adults, which leads to a disconnect between the healthcare needs of adolescents and the amount spent on them. Adolescents have several unmet healthcare needs—including mental health, sexual and reproductive health, and communicable diseases—and a health systems approach is the only sustainable way to meet their needs.
Dr. Maria del Carmen shared insights with the group about her work in Latin America and the inequities that countries face when trying to advance the needs of adolescents. She emphasized that within conversations about adolescent health, we should expand our discussions beyond services alone. She mentioned the importance of also discussing social determinants, education, and opportunities that young people have—this allows for advanced approaches to improving adolescent health.
Ms. Berankyte discussed adolescent health from the perspective of a medical student, emphasizing the role of students in changing the way we view adolescents within the health system. She shared that medical school students can seek out informal education—for example joining advocacy efforts—which can help students gain the knowledge lacking in the curricula on how to address the healthcare needs of young people.
Dr. Baltag emphasized that adolescent responsive health services are just one element of a health systems approach. Other key functions are:
When we address all of these elements together, we can say we are using a health systems approach. Using a health systems approach makes sure that providers are adequately supported to respond to the needs of adolescents.
Dr. Maria del Carmen explained that when those that are in power decide that adolescent health is important, they will put money into improving the services/outcomes. She called on individuals to look beyond the clinical aspect of providing care and to think outside the box. Beyond working with providers, it is important to look at equity and also to work with other sectors (for example, education and security) to address violence and other issues of more vulnerable adolescents. She also emphasized the importance of respect and confidentiality when working with adolescents. Adolescents have knowledge and information, but we need to be beside them and support their holistic needs—which is even more important now during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ms. Berankyte noted that when looking at the private sector’s role in helping adolescent youth, there needs to be a more accessible way for youth to be engaged. She acknowledged that most adolescents do not have their own financial means, and although they might want to go to the private sector for help, their lack of access is evident. We need to use a more systematic approach to address more vulnerable populations.
Dr. Baltag emphasized that youth spaces/corners are only effective in conjunction with service provision by a trained provider. Just providing information does not work, but we can achieve results when we combine information provision with accessible services provided on-site. Dr. Baltag also mentioned the importance of critical thinking and evaluation. Youth corners were established with good intentions, but we need to ensure program evaluation to ascertain that what we’re intending to achieve is what we actually achieve.
Dr. Maria del Carmen shared several insights from her work within Latin America on teenage pregnancy. She mentioned that without clear objectives, the necessary budget, changes to social determinants of health, and continuous advocacy for supportive policies among shifting government priorities, the desired outcomes will not be met.
Dr. Baltag discussed an initiative in her work to make every school a health-promoting school. Through this initiative, Dr. Baltag called on ministers of education to emphasize health and wellbeing as a primary factor in everything that they do. During this discussion, all speakers agreed that there is often a disconnect between school health programs and what the ministry of health is implementing.
This discussion wrapped up with a question about the mental health of adolescents, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ms. Berankyte emphasized that from the medical student viewpoint, the current approach to mental health amongst young people is not sufficient, and students often seek out outside information to gain this knowledge. In addition, Ms. Berankyte and Dr. Maria del Carmen agreed that listening to diverse groups of adolescents allows us to better meet their health needs. Dr. Baltag stressed that including adolescent health care in the formative years of a healthcare professional (for example, nursing and medical schools)—as well as continuing education—can allow for individuals to learn core competencies to deliver adolescent responsive services that will improve the health outcomes.
“Connecting Conversations” is a series tailored specifically for youth leaders and young people, hosted by FP2030 and Knowledge SUCCESS. Featuring 5 modules, with 4-5 conversations per module, this series presents a comprehensive look at Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health (AYRH) topics including Adolescent and Youth Development; Measurement and Evaluation of AYRH Programs; Meaningful Youth Engagement; Advancing Integrated Care for Youth; and the 4 Ps of influential players in AYRH. If you’ve attended any of the sessions, then you know these are not your typical webinars. These interactive conversations feature key speakers and encourage open dialogue. Participants are encouraged to submit questions before and during the conversations.
Our third series, One Size Does Not Fit All: Reproductive Health Services Within the Greater Health System Must Respond to Young People’s Diverse Needs, began on March 4 and will consist of four sessions. Our next sessions will be held on March 18 (How can services better meet the diverse needs of young people?), April 8 (What does it look like to implement an adolescent responsive approach?), and April 29 (How can our health systems serve adolescents as they grow and change?). We hope you’ll join us!
Our first module, which started on July 15 and ran through September 9, focused on a foundational understanding of adolescent development and health. Presenters—including experts from organizations such as the World Health Organization, Johns Hopkins University, and Georgetown University—offered a framework for understanding adolescent and youth reproductive health, and implementing stronger programs with and for young people. You can watch recordings (available in English and French) and read session summaries to catch up.
Our first series, which ran from July 15 through September 9, 2020, focused on a foundational understanding of adolescent development and health. Our second series, which ran from November 4 through December 18, 2020, focused on critical influencers to improve young people’s reproductive health. You can watch recordings (available in English and French) and read conversation summaries to catch up.