MHO starts program to curb teen pregnancy

by Margaux Maureen Manalo

The Los Baños Municipal Health Office (MHO) brings to the Los Baños National High School (LBNHS) the Adolescent Job Aid (AJA) program of the Department of Health in the form of a peer educator’s program. The MHO also makes room for a teen-friendly clinic, which will be open to receive clients starting the month of September. Both of this activities are efforts of the MHO to address the problem on teenage pregnancy.

Mary Jane Gonzales, rural health midwife at the MHO, said that the incidence of teenage pregnancy in the locality remains high, with Barangay San Antonio having the highest number of cases according to her report on volume of clients visiting the MHO during the first two quarters of the year.

The MHO emphasizes the importance of discouraging teenage pregnancy because of various reasons. According to Genevieve Casabuena of the Provincial Population Office-Outreach (PPO-Outreach), teenage pregnancy puts an adolescent at risk because at one’s reproductive system is not yet fully mature at this point to grow a baby, thus causing malnutrition to the baby, anemia to the pregnant teen, and other complications that can even lead to death.

The LBNHS was targetted owing to its large population and being the government school catering to high school-level constituents.

AJA program and seminars in schools

Under the AJA program, 10 students of the LBNHS started training last March 2017 under the Provincial Health Office and MHO for peer counselling. The training aims to produce students who can serve as role models for their peers, give the right information, and also help in dealing with problems. It is scheduled to end this September with trained peer educators receiving certificates of completion.

This peer educator program is a continuation of other youth-oriented programs of the MHO, namely, U4U launched in June 2016 and #Tropa launched in November 2016. A total of 30 students from the LBNHS were trained for #Tropa, and 10 of them became part of this year’s peer educator program.

The training included discussions about adolescent health and youth development, with emphasis on human anatomy, physical and biological changes in the body, teenage pregnancy, premarital sex, and fertility awareness. Also discussed were factors affecting one’s lifestyle and health, such as smoking and drug intake. The trainors focused on how the students can deal with their problematic peers.

The participants were also briefed about the programs of the MHO so they can refer and connect their problematic peers to the said office.

According to Casabuena, the seminars and orientation program of the PPO-Outreach and the MHO are held regularly and being brought to schools, colleges and universities in LB. Their target audiences were Grade 10 students; recently, however, they have been receiving requests from principals and guidance coordinators in conducting seminars for Grade 9 students due to the rising trend of teenage pregnancy among students.

Casabuena said that eventually, the program will expand and seminars will be conducted in other educational institutions in the locality, such as the Los Baños Community National High School in Barangay Timugan.

Seminars under the expanded program will be based on the organizations’ module on adolescent health, which includes the topics similar to those discussed in AJA with the addition of current issues and trends, such as harassment, human trafficking and exploitation, and sexually transmitted Infections and diseases. Parents will also be invited to the seminars on responsive effective, and active parenting, with the goal of promoting a more open and improved parent-child relationship.

“Importante kasi na maintindihan din ng parents na sila ang unang dapat sumagot doon sa mga tanong ng anak nila na may kinalaman sa sexuality nila…para mas ma-guide [nila] yung mga anak nila habang sila ay lumalaki,” Casabuena explained.

Teen-friendly clinic

The teen-friendly clinic that will soon be open to the public is envisioned to cater to problematic teens, according to Gonzales. “Yung mga problematic [teenagers], basta teenager ike-cater natin sila kung kailangan nila ng counselling and consultations or referral [to other institutions],” she said.

The said clinic can also be a venue for reporting cases of harassment.

Casabuena sees the availability of a teen-friendly clinic as one step toward improving health-seeking behavior of pregnant teenagers. It could encourage them to have regular check-ups because the clinic will provide a safe space for teenagers and  cases will be dealt with confidentiality.

Gonzales and Casabuena will help Dr. Alvin Isidoro, the municipal health officer, in managing the clinic.

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