Adolescent and Youth Reproductive HealthModule: Introduction

Introduction to Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health Module

Ethiopia is a country with an overwhelmingly young population. About 63% of the total population of Ethiopia is below the age of 25 years. Young people of ages 10–24 are the largest group to be entering adulthood in Ethiopian history. This cohort of young people makes up 25% of the total population (2007 Census). The health of young people is directly affected by the socio-cultural and economic context in which they live. This young section of the population in Ethiopia is faced with multiple and interrelated social, economic and health problems.

Gender inequality, sexual coercion, early marriage, high levels of teenage pregnancy, unsafe abortion and sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV, and AIDS, are among the sexual and reproductive health problem faced by many young Ethiopians. These are further complicated by limited access to reproductive health information and good quality adolescent and youth-friendly reproductive health services in the country.

Being aware of the various interrelated and complex reproductive health problems that young Ethiopians face, the Government of Ethiopia has shown its commitment to improving the reproductive health status of young Ethiopians through issuing the National Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health Strategy (Federal Ministry of Health, (FMOH) 2007). The National Adolescent and Youth Reproductive Health Strategy reaffirms the government’s commitment by setting forth its priorities and agenda for a decade.

In line with the strategy, the Federal Ministry of Health has also developed service delivery guidelines and standards and training manuals on youth-friendly reproductive health services. Health workers have an important role in improving the reproductive health of young people in Ethiopia. As a community health practitioner, you can contribute to the improvement of the reproductive health of young people through various means. Young people have needs that are quite different from those of older people. Understanding their special needs is key to helping them. Providing them with the appropriate information and services, mobilising the community in support of adolescent and youth reproductive health programmes, and working with and for young people are the major interventions that you can focus on in your community.

In this Module, you will learn about adolescent and youth reproductive health in detail. Beginning with the introduction to adolescent and youth reproductive health, you will learn that the major sexual and reproductive health problems that face young people include unwanted pregnancy and unsafe abortion, sexually transmitted infections including HIV, harmful traditional practices, gender-based violence and substance use. You will learn that young people have specific vulnerabilities and are inclined to indulge in risk-taking behaviour. To counteract these vulnerabilities, young people need life skills, and you will learn how to help them acquire these skills through education and counselling. You will also counsel young people on a range of issues related to their sexual and reproductive health, including contraceptive options. To be able to do this you will learn how to promote and provide adolescent and youth friendly services. Finally, you will learn how you can manage adolescent and youth reproductive health programmes in your community.

As this Module was going to press the World Health Organization (2011) collected together the core sexual and reproductive health (SRH) competencies that are desirable for use in primary health care. This can be accessed at: