In Indonesia, unmarried adolescents cannot access family planning services or methods through public health facilities. At the same time, they have little access to comprehensive, accurate and age-appropriate information about their sexual and reproductive health.
They’re expected to learn about these topics from their parents (who are often unprepared and want to avoid the topic) or from teachers in school (who teach basic anatomy and little more). They don’t trust their peers, who they feel are as clueless or misguided as they are. They are hesitant to seek sexual and reproductive health services, and only consult health providers as a last resort. So, they turn to the internet – where they find it difficult to determine what information is relevant and reliable or credible.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs’ MyChoice project – funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – is hoping to address this challenge with a new online platform for adolescent sexual and reproductive health. Partnering with Hipwee, a popular Buzzfeed-like Indonesian media company with a built-in youth audience, last week they officially launched “Dokter GenZ,” which can be a go-to place for young Indonesians to access evidence-based information about puberty, reproductive health, pregnancy prevention and more.
In less than seven days, the new website got an astonishing 100,000 views.
“We know from our research that sex, sexuality and contraception are not adequately discussed in school,” says CCP’s Jvani Cabiness, who works on the MyChoice project. “Their sex education focuses on anatomy but they don’t come away with an understanding about their own bodies and how to protect them. We wanted to create something that ensures that adolescents have access to reliable information and that it’s easily understandable and engaging.”
The subjects addressed on the Dokter GenZ site were identified based on a literature review, a qualitative study with young and older adolescents, and participatory design workshops with 15- to 19-year-olds. Through these evidence-gathering exercises, MyChoice found that many adolescents weren’t necessarily ready to jump into reading about contraception, considering it a “forbidden” or “inappropriate” subject, Cabiness says. This had to be taken into consideration when developing the Dokter GenZ platform (the choice of a doctor was deliberate as adolescents see medical professionals as trusted sources of information).
The first articles and content on the site will address topics such as friendship, peer pressure and healthy relationships, and the site will later introduce more sensitive themes such as reproduction and pregnancy prevention.
The MyChoice team is working very closely with Hipwee’s content creators, helping develop key messages and content ideas, which will be supplemented with social media, video, quizzes and testimonials from the Hipwee community. Prior to partnering with MyChoice, the young staff at Hipwee staff had very little experience in incorporating health and social messages into their content. So, the partnership now includes elements to enable the Dokter GenZ site to eventually be sustained without project support, giving Hipwee staff the tools to keep it going.
Indonesia is the fourth populous country in the world with 261 million people, 44.5 million between the ages of 15 and 24 and another 72 million ages 14 and under.
“We have a sizable youth population that is uninformed, misinformed or underinformed about basic sexual and reproductive health,” Cabiness says. “It’s challenging to address given the size of the country and current policies around youth access to sexual and reproductive health services, but we’re trying to take it on.”