Continuing to Improve Youth Access to Contraceptive Services in the Time of COVID-19 in India

Nov 20, 2020

Contributors: Deepti Mathur, Devika Varghese and Annette McFarland

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted access to family planning services around the world, the need for these services, particularly for adolescents and youth, remains the same. The Challenge Initiative for Healthy Cities (TCIHC) in India is working to ensure that adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) services continue to be available despite the pandemic.

To this end, TCIHC supported Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) in Uttar Pradesh to develop COVID-19 guidelines for facility Adolescent Health Days, such as requiring all participants to wear masks and to maintain physical distance from others, so adolescents can continue to safely seek the health services they need during the pandemic.

Beginning in August, TCIHC-supported cities such as Saharanpur, Varanasi, Gorakhpur and Allahabad in Uttar Pradesh re-initiated facility Adolescent Health Days across 68 urban primary health care centers (UPHCs) for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic impacted services in March 2020, when many in-person activities were halted. By September, 204 boys and 444 girls had participated in facility Adolescent Health Days in these cities.

In addition, TCIHC is providing technical assistance to RKSK to design social and behavior change messages to reach adolescents age 15-19 with targeted, age-appropriate health information. TCIHC developed messages on nutrition, sanitation and personal hygiene practices that aligned with RKSK monthly themes and addressed the COVID-19 pandemic. The messages were shared with adolescents via WhatsApp, a platform many adolescents in India access on their cell phones.

The nutrition and personal hygiene messages were also shared with district officials of 75 cities, including TCIHC-supported cities, other cities, and rural areas, so they can distribute the messages through official channels. All the messages were also tweeted by Dr. Manoj Kr Shukul, the General Manager of the National Health Mission in Uttar Pradesh.

TCIHC will continue its work to ensure the availability of AYSRH services and its efforts to reach adolescents with targeted health messages during the pandemic and beyond.

Adolescent health messages on nutrition (left) and sanitation and personal hygiene (right) developed by TCIHC.