Establishing adolescent and youth-friendly cities seen to help curb teenage pregnancies

Having the third-highest adolescent fertility rate in Southeast Asia, the Philippines is faced with diverse urban reproductive health problems. Available figures show that every year (as of 2016), an estimated 210,000 babies are born to teenage mothers[1], which translates to 12% of all births every year [2].

The launch of “The Challenge Initiative (TCI) to establish adolescent and youth-friendly cities towards the reduction of teenage pregnancies” in the Philippines today aims to address the country’s adolescent and youth sexual and reproductive health (AYSRH) issues. TCI envisions cities with responsive governance mechanisms, a sufficient budget, and strong community support for the continuous provision of AYSRH services and information.

The Zuellig Family Foundation (ZFF) as TCI’s Philippine accelerator hub will work closely with select cities to support and guide in the establishment of adolescent and youth-friendly cities.

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

TCI Philippines has investments from ZFF and the Commission on Population and Development (PopCom). TCI is an urban reproductive health platform that leverages donor investments. Worldwide, TCI is supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, private philanthropists, and bilateral donors.

TCI Philippines will be instrumental in the improvement of governance mechanisms needed at the local level to strengthen the AYSRH system. TCI is a “business unusual approach” that provides life-saving reproductive health and family planning information and services to underserved urban communities.

TCI also recognizes the importance of meaningful and active engagement among the adolescent and youth in decision-making on issues that affect their health and holistic development.

The online launch highlighted the need for a collaborative effort of the national government, local government units (LGUs), civil society organizations (CSOs), communities, adolescents and youth, and other stakeholders in finding solutions to the increasing cases of teenage pregnancies.

“ZFF, through the TCI Philippines, will guide local leaders in co-creating a responsive health system to address teenage pregnancies faster,” said Mr. Austere Panadero, Executive Director, ZFF.

For the Philippine efforts, the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Dipolog, and Puerto Princesa will be the pilot areas for the initiative.

“Cagayan de Oro City enacted an ordinance mandating the creation of the Oro Youth Development Council that will govern the operation of the 12 youth and teen centers in the city,” said Mayor Oscar Moreno.

“We are developing our very own Comprehensive Population and Development Code anchored on population development framework to harmonize existing policies and programs for adolescents and youth. I believe that adolescents and youth are key to achieving progressive development,” said Mayor Lucilo Bayron of Puerto Princesa City.

Optimize partnerships

TCI will maximize existing efforts and optimize established partnerships that involve high-impact interventions.

For example, in Puerto Princesa, TCI will be able to help intensify the efforts of Roots of Health (ROH), a CSO which has established a program that empowers female reproductive and overall health through education. TCI will build up on ROH’s track record in helping further reduce teenage pregnancy in the city.

“The city has 23 active partners in ensuring that sexual and reproductive health information and services are available and accessible to adolescents and youth,” said Dr. Rachel Dilla, city health officer of Cagayan de Oro City and the chairperson of ISDN for ASRH of the city.

“We believe TCI will serve as a key platform in strengthening collaboration among city stakeholders in addressing teen pregnancies,” said Mayor Darel Dexter Uy of Dipolog City. “Opportunity is also ripe for TCI to firm up the city’s child-friendly policies and interventions and social protection programs for teen parents.” 

TCI has five hubs across the world including the Philippines. It is led by the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population and Reproductive Health in the Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

1 – Philippine Statistics Authority, 2016
2 – Natividad and Marquez, 2016