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Equipping Young People for Adult Life:
The Example of Action Health Incorporated's Adolescent Health Program

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What's it all about?

Action Health Incorporated's Adolescent Health Program was created to help young people learn and use information, skills and services. This helps them deal with growing up. It especially helps them learn about things related to sexual health choices. The program also works to tell others about the poor health of Nigeria's adolescents, and it is trying to get parents and people in the government to understand the need for sex education.

What's the problem?

Sexual relationships can be very dangerous because of diseases that are passed from one person to another during these relationships. If a person has sexual relationships with more people, it could mean that the person has a bigger chance of getting a disease. This is a new problem in Nigeria.

In Nigeria, many adolescents, in the past, have had traditions they had to follow. As the country grows, new opportunities have left children without a traditional way of making sexual health choices. Many people get married at older ages because they can go to school for longer (for example, they can go to college). This means that many adolescents are having sexual relationships before they are married. Sometimes this means that people have sexual relationships with more than just one other person. This places young people in Nigeria in danger.

Many times, parents and schools do not teach adolescents about sex education. If the parents and schools do not teach it, adolescents only learn about these things through their friends. Their friends may not know all of the right information.

This has caused many problems. More teens are in sexual relationships at younger ages (for example, 16-year olds). Many times, they do not protect themselves and have these relationships with many people. More than one-half of all girls become pregnant before they are 20. The number of adolescents getting STDs (sexually transmitted diseases - meaning a disease that is passed from one person to another during sexual relationships) and HIV/AIDS (human immunodeficiency virus/acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), some of the diseases that you can get through having sexual relationships, is also very high. Also, many of the teenagers do not get to see a doctor or go to the hospital if they are pregnant or have a disease they got through sexual relationships. This can cause problems that could lead to death.

So what's the solution and how'd it get started?

Simply telling teens to say "NO" to sex is not enough. They need information, skills and services so that they can make the right decisions about sex. Action Health Incorporated (AHI) is trying to provide this information to adolescents. AHI believes that young people need to know what is happening to them. They also believe that teens should believe in themselves so that they can make good choices.
AHI was started by a couple, Nike and Uwem Esiet. Both of these people saw the needs of the adolescents, and wanted to help. They started the group, with 8 people, to provide information about sexual health choices to adolescents in Nigeria.

So what's been done?

AHI uses many different ways to get information to young people:

  • sex education at schools and in youth centers;
  • youth mentoring (teenagers teaching and talking to other teenagers);
  • clinical health services (services in places like doctors' offices and hospitals);
  • assistance to other organizations that help youth; and
  • education programs for the public and the government.

Young people are involved in every part of the program.

Sexuality Education

Sexuality is a word that describes who we are (girl or boy), how we develop, how we feel about how we look, what we believe we should do as a boy or a girl, and our sexual relationships. The goal of sexuality education is to help adolescents understand sexuality. This can help them take care of their sexual health.

AHI teaches young people about sexuality in a peer education program (youth teaching other youth) in high schools and at a youth center.

At the schools, peer educators (students) run a Health and Life Planning Club. These students are trained by AHI so they know about sexuality education. Each week, club members meet. They learn as they do a lot of activities. They play games, act out dramas, and have discussions. They talk about how to not have sex, how to be safe if they are going to have sex, how to deal with peer pressure, and how to not get HIV/AIDS.

At the youth center, they do many of the same things. They also have educational classes. Young people run these classes. Everyone participates. For example, teenagers might write questions on a piece of paper. Another teenager would read the question, and then everyone would talk about it.

Youth Clinic

AHI also runs a reproductive health services clinic (a place like a doctor's office where people can get help and medicine) at the youth center. Only young people can visit this clinic. Also, everyone at the clinic tries to be friendly to the young people and not make them feel uncomfortable.

Young people are also involved in this program. While waiting to see the doctor or nurse, clients talk with a youth educator who gives them basic information about their bodies and the diseases you can get through sexual relationships. The youth educator also helps the doctor and nurse talk to the teenagers. This helps young people feel comfortable.

The clinic helps about 1000 adolescents every year, and everyone seems to really like it.

Videos and Books

AHI also makes books and videos about sexuality. This is being done to teach adolescents that they do not have to believe the things said about their bodies and sex on television and on the radio. AHI has a newsletter, "Growing Up", that is written for young people by young people. It has stories, poems, puzzles and pictures. The newsletter is free.

The young people at AHI are also helping to make videos about growing up. The youth making the videos have been trained to write scripts, record video, and other things that are needed to make a video. The youth also teach other youth how to do these things. One of their hit productions, named "Be Wise and Other Songs", is a music video where young people sing about STDs, HIV/AIDS, teen pregnancy, and drug abuse. The artists wrote the songs and made the video by themselves. The video has been broadcast on TV.


The Youth Skills Development Program is a one- year internship. This internship is like a job for young people. In this internship, adolescents learn things that will help them as they grow up. The program is for teenagers that are finished with high school. They learn things that will help them reach their goals, like computer and office skills. They can be creative by acting, singing, dancing and writing.

Since 1993, over 30 people have been in this program.

Communities and Partnerships

AHI tries to inform the public about these issues. Many people believe that adolescents should not learn about sex because it will make them want to have sexual relationships. This could be bad for the young people because they will not be able to learn about the diseases that could kill them. AHI uses plays and music to teach parents and other people that young people should be able to learn about sexual health. Young people write the plays. At the end, the adults ask questions and the youth give answers. Young people also talk to government officials about sexual health.

One big event is the Teenage Festival of Life. It was created in 1993. Young people use creativity to tell about growing up. The festival includes young people from a lot of different places in Nigeria. They have writing competitions and perform songs, plays and poems.

How's all this going?

The program has been very successful, and is one of the best in Nigeria. It has been given awards, and many more young people know more about health and sexuality. This can be very important in their lives. AHI has helped a lot of young people, and plans to continue to help them by providing even more education.



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