Teenage girls' access to and utilization of adolescent reproductive health services in the Mpika District, Zambia
Choka, Constance Ndhlovu
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Teenage pregnancy is one of the major public health problems facing teenage girls in Zambia (Webb, 2000; Warenius, 2008). Teenage girls access to and utilization of adolescent reproductive health (ARH) services is important for the prevention of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) amongst teenagers.High incidence of teenage pregnancies has been noted in the district despite availability of ARH services. Teenage pregnancy is a major contributing factor to the high school drop-out rate amongst the girls and is one of the challenges faced by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that support girl child education, such as the campaign for female education (CAMFED) as well as for government agencies such as the Ministry of Education. The high incidence of teenage pregnancies could be an indication of poor access to and utilization of ARH services and therefore an assessment of the accessibility and utilization of the ARH services was done to explore the reasons for this.This research aimed to explore the factors affecting teenage girls access to and utilization of ARH services in the Mpika district, Zambia. The research was a qualitative, descriptive and exploratory study using individual interviews with ten in-school teenage girls, four key informants rendering ARH services and a focus group discussion (FGD) with ten pregnant teenage girls. By exploring these particpants perceptions and experiences, appropriate interventions to improve accessibility to and utilization of ARH services could be designed that would be appropriate for the local context in order for them to be effective. Thematic analysis with categorizing and coding methods was used to analyze the data. The study used the theory of planned behaviour (TPB) which stipulates that an individuals attitude,subjective norms and perceived behavioural control influence behaviour as a framework to explain the findings of the results of the study. The findings of the study indicated that physical, psychological and social barriers hindered adolescents from accessing and utilizing ARH services. The findings also suggested that high levels of knowledge about RH services do not necessarily translate into accessibility and utilization of ARH services. Accessibility to and utilization of ARH services by adolescents can also be determined by an individual attitude, subjective norms, and perceived behavioural control as illustrated by the TPB. Adolescents need to feel comfortable using ARH services. Therefore the three variables of TPB should be taken into consideration when designing comprehensive ARH programmes in order to accommodate the unique reproductive health needs of the adolescents. There is need to encourage participation in and involvement of adolescents in planning and implementation of ARH programmes. The participants also made recommendations which included strengthening information and education on ARH, strengthening adolescent-friendly services, improving staffing levels and promotion of school health services.