Around 1 in 4 people in Myanmar is aged between 10 and 24 years, representing the largest population of adolescents (15 million) in the country’s history. This cohort of young people presents a powerful opportunity to improve health and development outcomes for Myanmar: investing in adolescent health not only ensures the health and wellbeing of the current generation of young people, but also lays the foundation for future adult health, and the health of the next generation. Key to realising this ‘triple dividend’ is investment in the sexual and reproductive health of young people.
Adolescents in Myanmar, particularly girls, experience poor sexual and reproductive health: 1 in 6 girls is married by 18, and 1 in 7 have commenced childbearing before the age of 20, with complications of pregnancy and childbirth the second leading cause of death of 10-24 year old girls. Adolescent pregnancy also contributes to preventable infant mortality and is associated with poorer long-term health, education and economic outcomes for girls and their families. Unsafe sex is a leading risk factor for poor health for boys and girls: low rates of condom use and limited knowledge about HIV and other sexual and reproductive health issues common among this age group.
There are multiple factors that contribute to poor sexual and reproductive health outcomes and risk behaviours among adolescents in Myanmar. Poor accessibility and quality of adolescent-friendly health services results in considerable unmet need for sexual and reproductive health care. Despite the National Life Skills Education curriculum being introduced in schools since 2006, our formative research demonstrated that adolescents have limited access to sexuality education and lack comprehensive knowledge about reproductive health, with 4 out of 5 participants reporting they had never received information about sexual and reproductive health in school. Community opposition, stigma and harmful gender norms also present major barriers to young people accessing essential information and services.IMSA works with young people, their communities, and national and sub-national partners in Magwey Region, Myanmar, to develop and evaluate a best practice model to improve adolescent sexual and reproductive health. The multi-sectoral model includes an integrated package of interventions delivered across education, health and community sectors.
IMSA was implemented in 8 schools, communities and health facilities in partnership with the Ministry of Health and Ministry of Education. Following formative research, the IMSA model and interventions were co-developed with adolescents and other stakeholders with a focus on:
- Strengthening the capacity of health care providers to deliver quality adolescent-friendly health services by improving competency-based training for primary-level providers and developing job aids to facilitate counselling and care of adolescent clients
- Increasing the acceptability and accessibility of primary-level health facilities by improving the privacy of consultation rooms, and supporting other infrastructure improvements to create a more welcoming environment for adolescents
- Strengthening the capacity of teachers in post-primary and middle schools to deliver high quality, comprehensive sexuality education through improved competency-based teacher training and development of teaching aids and resources to support the delivery of the national Life Skills Education curriculum
- Increasing community support for adolescent sexual and reproductive health and reduce barriers to adolescents accessing information and health services through the development and delivery of parent-adolescent communication workshops and community mobilisation workshops through youth groups, mothers groups, parent teacher associations, and other key community stakeholder groups.
- Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP)
Partners + Collaborators
- Director, School Health Division, Ministry of Health and Sport
- Deputy Director, School Health Division, Ministry of Health and Sport
- Deputy Director, Department of Educational Research Planning and Training, Ministry of Education,
- Regional Monastic Supervisory Committee, Magway region
Meet the project team. Together, we are translating research into better health, for all.