GNA feature by James Amoh Jnr.
Tema, Dec. 30, GNA – Historically, adolescent reproductive health has been overlooked and largely ignored despite the high risk the country faces for its neglect.
Some of the challenges faced by adolescents include unplanned pregnancy and parenthood, difficulties in accessing contraception and safe abortion, high rate of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections and deaths during child birth.
Various factors restrict the delivery of information and services, and mostly health workers often act as barrier to effective care of adolescents by failing to provide young people with supportive, nonjudgmental, youth-appropriate services.
Accessing sexual and reproductive health information has become an even more thorny undertaking for adolescents who are often diffident to walk to clinics to get advice on their reproductive health.
But all is not lost considering the fact that more young people in our increasingly digital world are using mobile technologies to connect, communicate and share information with the pace of technological innovation and expansion.
*The Cost-effective Intervention*
WAWA ABA, a web-based platform thus enters the scene at an opportune moment to transform and provide dynamic, interactive and youth-friendly means for adolescence to access critical and reliable source of information on reproductive health and a way of reaching available health centres using a GPS system.
With an added benefit of offering relative privacy and confidentiality and in an era where young people resort to the internet to find answers to their questions, the cost-effective platform effectively deals with issues of discrimination and hostility from some health professionals when adolescents attempt to seek reproductive health services.
The edge-cutting web platform, which seeks to empower Ghanaian youth through mobile health, also identifies and scales up effective strategies to help young people to make informed, healthy choices about their sexual and reproductive lives.
In spite of the ever- increasing usage of mobile phones and the internet, young people still lacked access essential sexual and reproductive health information critical to enabling them to make healthy and informed decisions about their lives and future.
In educating and spurring up young people’s readiness to have access to a comprehensive package of sexual reproductive health services delivered in a supportive, interactive and user friendly platform, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in Accra developed the technology solution that resonates with adolescents to deal with challenges in their sexual and reproductive health.
Speaking in an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) at a stakeholder engagement and testing of the Wawa Aba platform in Tema New Town for over 70 adolescents, Madam Dela Bright Gle, Programme Analyst, Reproductive Health Commodity Security of the UNFPA, said her outfit embraced a global call for applications in July 2019 to end unmet need for family planning as one of many key drivers of sustainable development.
Adolescent health records from the Ghana Health Service in Tema Manhean from 2016 to 2018 revealed that, between ages 10 to 19, some 774 antenatal cases were record with 401 deliveries, whiles 491 post natal care cases were further recorded with 803 family planning cases.
These and other worrying records across the country, she noted, resulted in the development of the platform to address the high unmet need for family planning among adolescents 15 to 19 years, and the need to adopt innovation to bridge the gap and further address sexual reproductive health challenges faced by adolescence based on their real needs and experiences.
According to her, adolescents in this age group which formed 51 per cent of the local population with a national average of 30 per cent, was an indication that there was greater need to help them.
*The Wawa Aba Concept*
The concept – an innovative mapping facility which would also allow young people to log in with their mobile phones or other digital devices, displays the available health facilities which offer family planning or sexual reproductive services to ultimately reduce to its barest minimum, the 51 per cent of unmet needs.
The globally recognized and resilient platform and what it seeks to address, would be developed into an app, and has been given an African name - WawaAba, conceived from the strong Wawa Tree and its seeds.
Out of 74 global applications, Ghana was selected alongside eight countries for innovation and subsequent testing of the prototype among 50 university students to get adequate feedback on its efficacy and how effectively it would help to address their sexual reproductive needs.
Madam Bright Gle observed that there was need for adolescents to be empowered to make wise choices to reach their full potentials and withstand negative peer pressures that had the potential of curtailing their otherwise good future.
*GHS advocates for its use*
Dr John Yabani, The Tema Metropolitan Health Director, Ghana Health Service (GHS), whiles applauding the initiative and advocating for its use, indicated that teenage pregnancy was on the rise in Ghana and had become a serious public health concern; as reproductive health challenges were a leading cause of ill-health and death among women and girls of childbearing age.
Hence he advised that sexual reproductive health education and awareness ought to be intensified in schools to encourage teens to focus more on their education and not get involved in acts that had the tendency of truncating their education and further result in; unintended pregnancies, unsafe abortion, maternal deaths and disabilities, sexually transmitted infections among other related troubles.
Sexually active adolescents of both sexes, he underscored, were increasingly at high risk of contracting and transmitting sexually transmitted diseases but they are typically poorly informed about how to protect themselves and live healthily.
“Adolescents need to be given adequate and accurate information to enable them make well-informed and crucial choices about their future and be better empowered to protect themselves at all times from sexually transmitted infections.
If you make conscious efforts to understand health issues, you will be deceived and that could be detrimental to your health, so it is important to acquire information from the right sources especially at adolescent corners dotted across all health facilities established for the sole purpose of educating adolescents on their sexual reproductive health, ” the Medical Director further advised.
Access to sexual and reproductive health information and services for adolescents remain inadequate or lacking completely, and adolescents right to privacy, confidentiality, respect and informed consent are often not considered.
Hence, the Wawa Aba platform is a sure game-changer in adolescents’ struggle to access information on sexual and reproductive health as it is tailored to offer efficient delivery of a holistic and youth-friendly care packages.
Ultimately, it is important to empower, engage and educate the youth and communities to claim and respect their sexuality and reproductive rights and health, with special focus on using mediums that affords adolescents the opportunity to access relevant information rather effortlessly.