Thai hospital campaign steeply reduces teen pregnancies

Thai hospital campaign steeply reduces teen pregnancies

Sa Kaew's Wang Nam Yen Hospital has successfully reduced the number of teenage pregnancies from 200 cases a year to only 75 through a project that uses a multi-disciplinary approach to the problem.

The project emphasises life skills and sex education and successfully campaigned for condom machines to be installed at schools, hospitals and other places. It also coordinates with the Office of Non-formal and Informal Education to help educate teens.

As this is happening, the Public Health Ministry said the implementation of the Reproduction Health Act is in the pipeline. The Act, currently in a draft form, would promote teenage girls learning more about sexuality and allow them to continue studying while pregnant.

Pratum Jampa, a nurse working in Wang Nam Yen Hospital's healthcare and family practice division, detailed the reduction in teen pregnancies at the 1st National Conference on Healthy Sexuality: Teenage Pregnancy, which was held last week in Bangkok.

Pratum said the hospital established a committee dealing with reproduction health which comprised nurses, teachers and youths, and was sponsored by the local administrative body.

She said the nurses gathered information on pregnancies among girls aged under 19 and found there were 192 teenage and pre-teen mums in 2011, the youngest 11 years old.

They also found eight teenage mums gave birth to a second child and one teen gave birth to her fourth child, while two girls aged 14 and 18 had HIV. Many of the teen mums lacked life skills, sex education and family-planning knowledge.

Pratum said the committee implemented an action plan to provide communities and schools with information, teach life skills to primary school pupils and sex education to secondary school students.

It also created a group of young spokespeople who talked to their peers about these issues. Parents were provided with information in a bid to boost their communication skills when speaking to their children, while teachers co-ordinated with the Office of Non-formal and Informal Education so young mums could continue studying.

She said that since access to condoms was also key, Wang Nam Yen communities agreed to install a condom machine at Wang Burapa School, six machines at Wang Nam Yen Hospital, one machine at a village and another one at a vocational college. Subsequent surveys found the number of teenage mums had decreased as follows: 203 in 2013 and 75 in 2014.

At the same conference, Professor Roger Ingham, director of the Centre for Sexual Health Research at the United Kingdom's University of Southampton, said the two factors contributing to a dramatic decrease in the teenage pregnancy rate in 12 years related to the rights of children and youths.

They were the right to learn about relationships and sex education appropriately, and the right to access birth control services easily.

Ingham said the two factors could happen when related agencies had a clear policy and provided training to staff at all levels, while parents should know about sexual health and have positive communication skills with their kids.

Studies showed that sex education and better access to birth control services didn't promote youths to have sex. On a contrary, youths with access to this had a tendency to have less sex.

Dr Kittipong Saejeng, director of the Health Department's Bureau of Reproductive Health, said the Reproduction Health Act draft was in the pipeline.

Kittipong said its key content included the right to get information about reproduction health, relationships and sex education, and the right to access safe and appropriate birth control services.

Its other key elements were the right to continue studying despite being pregnant and having access to sexual health services without exposing private information.

In the meantime, he said developing a good attitude in relation to the issue through training would be a big help.

Chiang Mai Youth Council representative Chuleeporn Thaboon called for the continuous promotions of constructive activities for youths.

Chuleeporn said the activities - be it arts, sports or volunteer work - would develop character, self-respect and local communities, while helping to shield youngsters from vices.

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