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Better Meeting the Needs of Youth in Panama
In Panama, young people are routinely denied access to comprehensive sexuality education and health services that meet their real-life needs. As a result, teenage pregnancy rates remain high. Although the Panamanian government has outlined national health care standards, and signed on to several international commitments that uphold the right to health care, young people in Panama often encounter a different reality.
Our local partner, the Panamanian Family Planning Association (APLAFA), set out to address the perceived lack of quality, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services for youth by conducting a series of “mapping” and “auditing” exercises meant to ensure the implementation of a national policy aimed at reducing unplanned teenage pregnancy:
Political mapping analysis: APLAFA first ascertained that the conservative government would make it difficult to advance more progressive policies to reduce unplanned teenage pregnancies. However, in reviewing all existing policies, the group found that there were explicit mentions of the need to provide youth-friendly services in public clinics nationally.
Social audit: APLAFA set out to monitor the implementation of these stated national standards. The organization trained 25 youth as social auditors to visit and assess the youth-friendly services of clinics. The auditors found a general failure to provide adequate services.
After sharing the results with service providers and government agencies, APLAFA began to see action—both the Ministry of Health and service providers signed an agreement to improve youth-friendly services. Additionally, they developed guidelines for those services, which today are being implemented by the government in three regions to better meet the needs of nearly 500,000 young people.