Why Youth-Friendly Health Services Matter

by Jessica Salama, Associate Program Manager, Global Marketing, PSI

1.2 billion adolescents are reaching their reproductive years, and most don’t have access to modern contraception. That’s a big number, but it’s not our greatest challenge. The real challenge we’re facing is a lack of empathy in program design.

PSI is working to address this as the youth lead for the SHOPS Plus project, in collaboration with Abt associates and project implementers. Over the last few years, PSI has developed and refined two major initiatives to improve private sector service delivery for family planning and sexual and reproductive health. The first is Provider Behavior Change Communication (PBCC), which focuses on motivating and supporting health providers to adopt a certain behavior. The second major initiative of PSI’s is strengthening the private health sector to provide Youth-Friendly Health Services (YFSHS). SHOPS Plus and PSI believe that in order to provide high-quality services to young people, those services need to be equitable, accessible, appropriate, and acceptable regardless of a person’s age, marital status, parity, sexuality, ability or socio-economic status.

In Uganda, through the SHOPS Plus-funded Youth Module for the PBCC training, PSI is working to address and improve access for sexually active unmarried women and young girls, who have a higher unmet need for contraception (43%) than do married women (34%).  The Module focuses on training PBCC agents to motivate and support providers to deliver respectful, non-judgmental, quality SRH counseling for young people, as well as to counsel youth on LARCs, in the context of informed choice.  PSI developed training materials and facilitated a PBCC workshop for their dissemination with its affiliate member, PACE, in Uganda. PACE helped to pilot these resources, gathering significant feedback so that the resources could be refined and used most effectively for the project. Despite the immediate and positive effects this training has on participants, we know that training alone is not enough. True behavior change starts with training and awareness, but must be sustained through ongoing mentoring, coaching and reinforcement of messages and skills.

These are the snapshots of the adolescent girls and providers that have directly benefitted or been involved in the YFHS PBCC training.