Health ministry assessing pregnancy risk factors among high school students

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Health ministry assessing pregnancy risk factors among high school students

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — The Ministry of Health and Wellness is currently carrying out a baseline assessment of select risk factors of pregnancy among high school students in eastern Jamaica.

“This has come about because of a study we did in 2014 looking at the operation of the Victoria Jubilee Hospital teen clinic, and the findings suggested that the eastern part of the island and the west have a high prevalence rate in teenage pregnancy,” said manager of the Adolescent Unit in the ministry, Joy Chambers.

“So, we have just started and we hope that the findings can help us to put together those interventions that can mitigate further teenage pregnancy,” she said.

Chambers was speaking recently at The Women's Centre of Jamaica Foundation (WCJF) virtual annual lecture on adolescent pregnancy, which was this year named in honour of the centre's first national director Pamela McNeill.

In the meantime, Executive Director of the National Family Planning Board, Lovette Byfield, said that the agency's technical support to reduce teenage pregnancy programme has been adversely impacted by COVID-19, and as a result, the board has asked for the programme to be extended to December 2021.

The initiative, which is funded by the Inter-American Development Bank, commenced in 2019, and is aiming at reducing adolescent pregnancy rates in Jamaica, impact adolescent sexual and reproductive health behaviour among boys and girls, increase public awareness, as well as increase access to sexual and reproductive health services and commodities for adolescents.

Under the programme, contraceptive commodities including long-acting reversible contraceptives will be provided to 500 adolescent mothers, and public awareness sessions will also be conducted.

It was initially formulated to benefit teens in the parishes of Kingston and St Andrew, St Catherine, St Ann, St James and Clarendon, which have the highest teenage prevalence rate, but the programme has since been extended to St Thomas, Hanover, Trelawny and Portland.

According to Byfield, who was also a speaker at the lecture, a key objective of the programme is to prevent repeat pregnancy among teen mothers.

But, she said, the programme is experiencing some challenges as the recruitment of the girls, as well as the scheduling of their clinic dates for the contraception method, have been affected by COVID-19.

She noted that their health providers are involved in COVID-related activities, and so being available to schedule for the girls to do their insertion is being challenged.

But she said the board has asked for an extension and is hoping that it will be able to meet its goal of reaching 500 teen mothers to ensure that they don't have a repeat pregnancy.

“And that is an important intervention to interrupt the cycle of the mothers having two, three and four children and not being able to provide for them adequately,” Byfield noted.

The programme also provides condoms and pregnancy tests to adolescents in the participating parishes and has launched a media campaign, utilising traditional and social media platforms, to help in the reduction of teen pregnancy.

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