Online Program

Promoting body literacy and fertility-awareness among very young adolescents

Monday, November 4, 2013

Melissa Adams, MPH, Institute for Reproductive Health (IRH), Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC
Kimberly Aumack-Yee, BA, Institute for Reproductive Health, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Rebecka Lundgren, MPH, Institute for Reproductive Health, Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Available literature suggests that adolescents often enter puberty without sufficient information about their changing bodies and emerging fertility that they need to make critical decisions to protect their reproductive health across the life course (Carvacho et al., 2006; Sommer, 2009). Researchers collaborated with youth-serving organizations in Rwanda, Guatemala, and the United States to develop a “CycleSmart Kit” aimed at helping girls and boys learn about menstruation, puberty, gender norms, their fertility, and staying safe. The Kit consists of a set of CycleBeads (color-coded beads used with the Standard Days Method of family planning which can also be a visual and tactile way of teaching girls about menstruation and fertility), a calendar, a weekly diary, washable/reusable sanitary pads, and a country-specific informational brochure. Twenty-six key informant interviews, 18 focus group discussions with boys and girls (age 12-17), and three focus group discussions with parents of adolescents across all three sites informed the development of the Kit. Field-testing was conducted with 240 girls in Rwanda and Guatemala. Participating girls tracked their menstrual cycles using CycleBeads and the informational brochure, and documented their experiences in diaries. A 20-item questionnaire was self-administered at baseline and endline to assess knowledge and attitudes in Rwanda. Results indicate the Kit contributed to increased puberty- and fertility-awareness knowledge in girls and boys; allowed girls to easily track and prepare for their menstrual cycles; facilitated important puberty-related discussions between adolescents and their parents; and was viewed as acceptable by adolescents, parents, and their communities.

Learning Areas:

Advocacy for health and health education
Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Public health or related education

Learning Objectives:
Describe the puberty- and fertility-awareness information needs of very young adolescent girls and boys and the implications for their reproductive health. Demonstrate how the CycleSmart Kit can be used to fill gaps in puberty- and fertility-awareness education among adolescents.

Keyword(s): Adolescents, Reproductive Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have over 20 years of research and program experience in adolescent sexual and reproductive health.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.