Adolescence is a period characterised by rapid physical, cognitive and social changes, including sexual and reproductive maturation. Adolescents are generally healthy, but their risk-taking behaviours pose challenges to their health and development. Issues, including sexual identity and dealing with one’s sexuality, add to the dynamism of the period and cannot be overlooked by any service that provides for their needs.
In Jamaica, adolescents are engaging in behaviours that threaten their health. The cost to the public services for these risky practices has not been quantified; however, the fact that these behaviours are widespread is well documented.
The Ministry of Health (MOH) has implemented a number of programmes to address the issues, including the provision of service in non-traditional access points, hence the establishment of a Teen Hub in the Half-Way-Tree Transport Centre and the implementation of Adolescent Standards and Criteria in selected health facilities.
The Teen Hub
The Teen Hub began operation at the Half Way Tree Transportation Centre in April 2017 and was later launched by the Honourable Minister of Health, together with the Minister of State in the Ministry of Youth and the Regional Director of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. It was introduced as a response to reports of negative behaviours, including violence, truancy and risky sexual practices by adolescents. In addition, the Teen Hub provides a safe space for young people commuting the Kingston and St. Andrew and St. Catherine Metropolitan Areas to access Clinical, Educational and Social Services. The services include:
- HIV Counselling and Testing for adolescents 16 years and older;
- Mental Health Screening and Counselling;
- Drug Abuse Counselling;
- Nutritional Counselling;
- Oral Health Sensitising;
- Counselling for Interpersonal Conflicts;
- Assistance with Homework/SBA Assignments;
- Access to Printing Services (free of cost); and
- Skills Training.
An average of 50 adolescents visit the hub per day. The hub is fitted with computers, air conditioning units, a television, white boards, and counselling rooms. There is also a waiting area fitted with stacking chairs. All of this was accomplished with the input of adolescents through focus group discussions and key informant interviews. There is strong partnership with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
Adolescent Standards and Criteria
The Adolescents Standards and related Criteria (S&C) were developed as a guide for assuring quality health services for adolescents. This Guide reflects the opinions, comments and suggestions of a cross-section of health care providers (HCP), educators, social service providers, parents and adolescents, obtained in a process of consultations and participatory group activities conducted in each of the four health regions.
Ten (10) standards and 37 criteria were developed and piloted in seven sites. These are St. Ann’s Bay H/D, St. Jago H/D, Sandy Bay H/C, Mandeville Adolescent Health Clinic, Victoria Jubilee Teen Clinic, The University Hospital Teen Clinic and the National Family Planning Board’s Mobile Clinic. Added to these were two (2) Roll-out sites; the Santa Cruz Centre of Excellence and the Catherine Hall Health Centre.
This process entailed a series of training with HCP to implement the S&C in the sites above. Since 2016, nine more sites have been added to the seven pilot sites and two roll-out sites. There are:
- Christiana Health Centre;
- Morant Bay Health Department;
- Darliston H/C;
- Port Antonio Health Department;
- Annotto Bay Health Department;
- Edna Manley Health Centre;
- Comprehensive Health Centre;
- May Pen H/D; and
- Albert Town H/C.
The S&C are currently being implemented in 18 sites. Twenty-Six new sites have been identified for implementation and training of health care workers conducted. To date, most of the facilities have conducted baseline data. An Oversight Committee has been formed to monitor the S&C.
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