Rangatahi use voice to elevate conversation about youth sexual health services in Waitaha

Making sexual and reproductive services youth-friendly, through inviting spaces and taking time to whanaungatanga (connect) is key to improving outcomes in youth sexual health, a recent study shows.

The study was prompted when a review carried out by CCN’s Child and Youth Workstream found the sexual and reproductive health of kiwis has declined in recent years. It found an increase in chlamydia and gonorrhea among 20-29-year-olds, a high rate of unintended pregnancies and high rates of teen parenting.

To understand how these issues impact rangatahi in Waitaha, a group of people with lived experience and providers of sexual health services came together using the Kia Kotahi Partnership in Design framework. The group held three wānanga (forum to observe, listen and learn) in addition to developing a survey which had more than 150 responses from rangatahi.

19-year-old Peggy Tombs, part of the project group, said much of the feedback about why rangatahi were hesitant to engage with sexual health services was the feeling of whakamā (being embarrassed).

“One of the key recommendations that I think will make a massive difference to rangatahi was how we work with our practitioners to make sure they’re engaging well with rangatahi,” said Peggy.

“When people are coming to you for a problem, they want to feel listened to and validated. Essentially your job as a practitioner is to sort the problem out, but before that, you have to treat the person as the person. The person isn’t the problem, the problem is.

“When they come to you, they need understanding, and from there you can build a relationship where you can get the best out of people so they’re receptive to what you have to offer.”

Other barriers to accessing services included cost and accessibility in terms of times and locations.

Dom Wilson, 19, was also involved with the project and believes that a focus needs to be on educating and reducing the stigma around accessing services.

“It’s about how we actively educate young people to understand the resources they have and doing that through youth-friendly ways.

“For me it’s about how we are supporting health care professionals with their knowledge and understanding so that every young person who walks through the doors of a clinic or seek support at school or a workplace get the same sort of experience. That means that it’s comfortable for them to come back.”

The information gathered was supplemented with data on service provision provided by Te Whatu Ora Waitaha, and resulted in the group making 12 recommendations to the CCN Leadership Team, with three prioritised for immediate implementation:

  • investment in workforce capability including cultural and youth-specific upskilling for frontline health staff.
  • increasing the age of free primary health care for sexual and reproductive health services across Te Waipounamu | South Island to the age of 25.
  • improving access to information around availability of services and cost, working with Te Mana Ora | Community and Public Health to provide more comprehensive information and education to young people, as well as access to technology ensuring rangatahi can book online, receive results electronically.

The group will now work with system partners to progress individual recommendations.

You can read a summary of survey results and watch videos featuring interviews with Peggy and Dom.


About the Author