Sex, studies or strife? What to integrate in adolescent health services



If health services for adolescents are to be successfully integrated into the existing health care system, they will need to reach out to meet the needs that adolescents themselves perceive as salient. This paper describes a study aiming to elicit the needs of adolescents in higher secondary schools in Goa, India, in 1999-2000. The objective was to generate information which could guide the development of adolescent-friendly health services by integrating the health needs identified by adolescents themselves. The study began with free-listing, followed by focus group discussions and in-depth interviews to elicit areas of concern. Then, a survey of 811 students with a self-report questionnaire was carried out. The findings demonstrate that there is clearly an unmet need for information about sexual and reproductive health, but also a large, unmet need for psychosocial support for health issues ranging from violence in schools to poor relationships with parents, stress-related health complaints and educational difficulties, which are often perceived by adolescents to be of primary importance. Integrating these issues into programmes is likely to be an essential element in developing health services and programmes which can reach out to the majority of adolescents in school settings in India.

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