I was honoured last month to sit in a three-day conference with all the District health officers of this country. The conference was majorly about how to improve and increase the level of health information going to the public.
In my three days as their rapporteur, some of my tasks included preparing a report on their discussion and periodical sharing with them during the conference. I struggled to keep awake in that conference, in most times I opened my social networks tab and started conversations to keep me awake.
True, the information that was discussed in that meeting was vital to my life – very crucial infact. The mode of its presentation, however, just didn’t appeal to me.
Radio station owners, who were also in attendance, kept stressing the point that the public is not excited by the presentation of health information.
I wasn’t alone, a few of my friends agreed too on social media. I asked them what their thoughts are on health information.
— Mujuni Raymond (@qataharraymond) April 30, 2014
So this week when the UNFPA called me in to a discussion on the policy gaps in the fight against teenage pregnancy (already that sounds boring) I was sure to put some of these questions to the moderators.
The tragedy of teenage pregnancy is bad enough, we don’t need a failure to communicate as part of it.
I will point out to you some of these problems;
– How do you expect a campus student to read the newspaper of straight talk? Already, the failure to read notes, books and papers is evident. The highest end of readership for this stereo-type of youth is tabloids and magazines – majorly the online versions.
The teeming rural youth struggling in the village to live are not going to be happy and excited about a newspaper written in English, they won’t love radio programmes moderated in English and neither will they fall for radio programmes packed with health jargon
The greater burden in the fight against teenage pregnancy lies on the teenagers, helping them in that endeavour is what will make or break the campaign.
Straight talk has a few answers for this, Patricia Lutwama, a programs officer at the foundation says a lot of effort is put in packaging health information for children and teenagers. She says Straight Talk has diversified its content to include drama, music and plays to attract the youth to read and understand reproductive health information.
Peace Acema from the UNFPA also adds that children learn better from visualizing. She says technocrats of reproductive health education need to use more visuals to attract attention from teenagers.
This however has come at a price. Parents have not fully embraced the exposure of their children to sex education. She says in some areas parents protest the diagram images of the body that are used for se education.
Visualisation of reproductive health information with the right packaging has paid off. In Kenya, the TV drama series, Shuga was the talk of teens. The drama focused on the dangers of unprotected sex amongst teenagers.
The biggest policy gap at the time, in my view, seems to be the packaging of information passed on to teenagers.
Concerted effort should be put in on this.
We have other policy gaps like the judicial system’s requirement for proof of cases of defilement and rape where the victims are required to narrate the ordeal of their rape that is in most cases psychologically challenging.