Original Article | Volume 18: 26 | 14 Apr 2023

Utilisation of adolescent reproductive and sexual health services in a rural area of West Bengal: A mixed-method study

ABSTRACT

Introduction: Despite policy actions and strategic efforts for improving the reproductive and sexual health of adolescents by promoting the uptake of adolescent reproductive and sexual health (ARSH) services, the utilisation rate remains significantly low, especially in rural areas of India. This study aimed to assess the utilisation of these services by adolescents in rural West Bengal and its associated determinants.
Methods: This mixed-method study was conducted from May to September 2021 in the Gosaba rural block of South 24 Parganas, West Bengal. Quantitative data were collected from 326 adolescents using a pre-tested structured questionnaire. Qualitative data were collected via four focus group discussions among 30 adolescents and key-informant interviews among six healthcare workers. Quantitative data were analysed using SPSS, while qualitative data were analysed thematically.
Results: Ninety-six (29.4%) adolescents had utilised ARSH services at least once during adolescence. The factors associated with non-utilisation of ARSH services were younger age, female sex, increasing reproductive health stigma and decreasing parent–adolescent communication related to sexual health. Qualitative exploration revealed that unawareness regarding services, perceived lack of privacy and confidentiality at healthcare facilities and disruption of services post-emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic were some major barriers to ARSH service utilisation.
Conclusion: A multi-component strategy, including promotion of adolescent-friendly health clinics, community support interventions associated with motivation and counselling of parents regarding the importance of adolescent reproductive health, is needed to improve the utilisation of ARSH services. Necessary steps to correct the deficiencies at the facility level should also be prioritised.

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