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Shifting the Paradigm of Health Education With Technology

The Advancing Adolescent Health project aims to delay early pregnancy and marriage in Bangladesh.

Adolescents’ fast and early adoption of new information technologies creates opportunities for the use of interactive tools that can increase their skills and information assimilation. Considering the nature of adolescent learning and the interest in new technologies, the Advancing Adolescent Health (A2H) project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), has introduced Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and Digital Communications Technologies to educate young people about sexual and reproductive health issues through platform-based life skills sessions. The aim is to bring qualitative change in the health-seeking behavior of adolescents, as well as in the behavior of the communities where they live.

The project has disseminated wireless tablets pre-loaded with audio-visual content and interactive apps to the frontline community facilitators. The audio-visual materials include animations, radio episodes, and the Shahana cartoon series, created by the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). These tablets and the downloaded content help adolescents understand their health issues better and remember key messages. These multimedia devices have also been used during orientations of community gate-keepers to engage those with lower literacy levels.

The impact is evident in the words of the adolescents themselves.

“Watching ‘Shahana’ characters talk about our problems really gives us courage,” said Saia, one of the participants of the 15-19-year-old life skills session. “Now we know all the girls of our age go through physical changes and there is no embarrassment to talk about the issues like menstruation.”

Lata of Taraganj Upazila shared a similar sentiment.

“When I first noticed the changes in my body, I was so scared,” she said. “I did not know who to talk to. After participating in the session, I can understand the reason for puberty changes. It is helpful to see the videos and listen to the audio episodes. We can understand the ‘Nijeke Jano’ book content better now after watching the videos.”

The adolescent boys attending the life skills sessions also gave feedback about how the digital content keeps their interest and ensures regular attendance.

“Previously, we spent our afternoon time in gossiping and roaming around,” said 14-year-old Rashedul. “We were not very fond of reading books to learn the health issues. However, things began to change when the community facilitator started to bring the tablets to the session. We like the audio episodes and animation most.”

Eighteen-year-old Arif, one of the adolescent leaders from Gangachara Upazila, agreed.

“We learned the adverse consequence of early marriage and sexual harassment watching videos and animations,” he said.

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