Equipping Young People for Adult Life:
The Example of Action Health Incorporated's Adolescent Health Program
(Any time you see a link, you can click it for more
information on that word or topic)
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
and it is trying to get parents and people in the government to understand
the need for sex
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, 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
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
clinical health services (services in places like
doctors' offices and hospitals);
assistance to other organizations that help youth;
education programs for the public and the government.
Young people are involved in every part of the program.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.