Health service providers are pivotal in ensuring that young people can access the SRH services they need and to which they are entitled. Part of CSE is informing young people about the services available to them and supporting their access to these services. By engaging health workers, CSE programmers in and out of school can support the integration of youth-friendly SRH services that prioritize the needs and concerns of young people within the community health system.
A partnership between the health and education sectors is essential for the development of linkages between provision of sexuality education programmes and availability of youth-friendly services. Providing education without guaranteeing access to sexual health services, including condoms and contraception, is less effective and even unethical.
CSE practitioners working with children and young people gather important insights into why young people do or do not access the SRH services they need. By relaying this information to health providers (while maintaining the confidentiality of the young people concerned), CSE programmers can help health providers develop solutions to remove the potential barriers that young people face in accessing SRH services. Schools and school staff are respected by community members, and can act as intermediaries between parents and service providers.
Health care providers are also important resources for CSE programmers to support knowledge-building on CSE. Working closely and creating linkages with health workers also helps to establish an effective referral system – so that CSE programmers who encounter children or young people with specific individual needs that they are not able to cater for, can refer them to health or medical practitioners for additional support.
CSE programmers need to remember that, like them, service providers and parents may also have issues with adolescents receiving and accessing information and services to do with SRH.
Successful strategies for engaging and working with health care providers in providing CSE
- Training support is critical for health staff, so include them in any schoolbased or community level capacity building on CSE and SRH. Do not assume they know.
- Let them play their expert role – even without youth friendly training, healthcare practitioners, whether specialised medical practitioners or community-based extension staff, have important information. Invite them along as guest speakers whenever you can to build good working relationships.
- Include young health professionals in the system – either new trainees or at community level – this will make them much more approachable to inand out-of-school youth.
- When talking to parents, find a mature and respected health professional who is a champion for adolescents – this will carry more weight.
- Identify health providers who have regular contact with children and young people.
- Invite health providers to sessions on the rationale behind CSE and share evidence on impact.
- Ask health providers to deliver factual information within the context of CSE sessions or in activities aimed at engaging parents and other community members.
- Ask for feedback from health providers about gaps in information and knowledge that they have identified in children and young people who access referral services.
- Prepare health providers to interact with and respond to more informed young clients.When health literacy increases, it is expected that children and young people will more willing to ask questions about their choices and treatments. Health providers, in turn, should be ready to answer and encourage this active participation from clients during the provision of services.