The K4Health website has a Youth Policy Toolkit, 'an online resource for improving youth reproductive health (YRH) and HIV/AIDS policy worldwide'.
'This site contains full-text policies addressing YRH from countries across the world. The Toolkit also contains policy making resources, including case studies, expert interviews, key publications and tools, and helpful links. Use the navigation menu on the right to view tools and resources related to key policy areas.'
'the Youth Policy Toolkit uses the terms young people, youth, and adolescents interchangeably to refer to the 10-24 age group'
The section on family planning for young people notes: 'Young people face a greater risk of unplanned pregnancy now than ever. Girls are beginning to menstruate younger, and young people are waiting longer to marry; as a result, there is a growing window of time during which premarital sex and pregnancy can occur. On average, one-third of women in developing countries give birth before age 20; a large proportion of these pregnancies are unplanned. Each year, between two million and four million adolescents undergo clandestine or unsterile abortion. Moreover, teen mothers are twice as likely as older women to die of pregnancy-related causes, and their own children are at higher risk of illness and death.'
'All contraceptive methods are safe for young people, although permanent methods such as vasectomy and female sterilization are not recommended. Yet many people lack access to contraception and related information; in fact, young people have the highest levels of unmet need for family planning of any population.'
Key Areas for Policy Action:
'Many of the same policy actions that would help to make contraception available to women and men more generally also apply to contraceptive access for young people. Countries should undertake the following key policy actions that are especially important in improving access for young people:
- Promote abstinence while recognizing the contraceptive needs of sexually active youth. Abstinence is a primary means of preventing unwanted pregnancy. However, policy should acknowledge that sexually active youth need increased contraceptive access and options.
- Promote laws and policies that reduce pregnancy-related death and illness. These include laws that promote young women's access to reproductive health care and information and that protect young women's health such as prohibition against early marriage.
- Ensure that youth have access to a wide range of contraception. Nearly all contraceptive methods are appropriate for adolescents. Law, policy, and clinical guidelines should reflect international consensus on the safety and appropriateness of contraceptive methods, so that health workers have clear guidance to advise and prescribe appropriately to young people based on sound medical criteria.
- Eliminate restrictions based on social status (for example, denying contraceptives to unmarried adolescents) or based on unfounded medical criteria.
- Allow minors to consent to use of contraception without adult approval or notification. Policies requiring adult consent unnecessarily restrict access to contraception.
- Ensure that young people have access to comprehensive, youth-focused information about contraceptive options, through schools and other channels.
- Promote dual protection against unintended pregnancy and STIs.
- Address the role of emergency contraception as a backup to failure of condoms and other contraceptives.
- Support youth-friendly services that train health workers to address the special concerns of young people, that maintain confidentiality and privacy, and that are accessible and affordable to young people.
- Emphasize open discussion and promotion of condoms and allow schools to provide condoms and other contraceptives, as appropriate.'
To what extent are the above 'ideals' reflected in mational policies? And how great is the gap between national policy and the reality for young people?
Best wishes, Neil
Joint Coordinator, HIFA Project on Family Planning
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HIFA profile: Neil Pakenham-Walsh is coordinator of the HIFA global health campaign (Healthcare Information For All - www.hifa.org ), a global community with more than 18,000 members in 177 countries, interacting on five global forums in three languages. He also currently chairs the Dgroups Foundation (www.dgroups.info), which supports 800 communities of practice on international development, health and social justice. Twitter: @hifa_org FB: facebook.com/HIFAdotORG firstname.lastname@example.org