Thailand to adopt English teenage pregnancy prevention strategy

22 March 2017
Motherhood in Childhood

Article on the Guardian, written by Sally Weale

A teenage pregnancy prevention strategy widely credited with halving the rate of conceptions among teenagers in England is to be adopted by authorities in Thailand in the hope of achieving similar success.

Conception rates among teenagers in England and Wales are at their lowest rates since records began, and figures from the Office for National Statistics published on Wednesday are expected to show a further fall in what has been described as an extraordinary achievement.

As a result, Thailand, which has seen a rise in pregnancy rates among teenagers in recent years, is to adopt key elements of the English strategy with the aim of reducing its pregnancy rate among under-18s by 50% in the next 10 years.

The teenage pregnancy strategy was set up in 1999 by the Labour government to address soaring rates of pregnancy in England among teenagers from deprived backgrounds. It resulted in a 51% drop in conceptions over a 16-year period, thanks in part to better education and improved access to more sophisticated contraception.

Although England still lags behind other European countries and continues to have higher teen pregnancy rates than Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia, very few other teenage pregnancy prevention programmes worldwide have had such success, according to the World Health Organisation.

Figures published last year showed that there were 23 conceptions per 1,000 girls aged under 18 in 2014, compared with 47 out of 1,000 in 1998.

Despite last week’s report that police are investigating the case of a pregnant 11-year-old girl who is due to become Britain’s youngest mother experts in the field say the numbers for 2015, to be published this week, are likely to be even better.

Alison Hadley, director of the Teenage Pregnancy Knowledge Exchange at the University of Bedfordshire – who led the teenage pregnancy strategy, said figures for the first three quarters of 2015 had shown further declines. “I would expect, unless something very odd happened in the last quarter, there will be a continuing downward trend.”

Thai officials have visited the UK to see the pregnancy prevention strategy in action, visiting young people’s services offering advice and contraception in Hackney, east London, and looking at courses to help parents feel more confident about discussing sex and relationships with their teenager children.

They are now working on a national strategy for Thailand, applying the 10 key factors used in the England’s strategy, including a cross-government approach, good use of data to monitor progress, sex and relationships education and better support for teenage parents to stop the cycle of poverty. It will be submitted to cabinet for approval later this year.

Wassana Im-Em, assistant representative to the United Nations population fund Thailand, said there had been a 74% increase from 31 to 54 births per 1,000 15- to 19-year-olds during 2000-2012 in Thailand, which reduced to 44 per 1,000 in 2015.

“Meanwhile, the number of births among girls under 15 years of age has doubled during the same period, from about 1,700 to 3,700 births per year during 2003-2012 and declined to 2,900 cases in 2015,” she said. “Overall, each year 0.15% of women aged 10-14 years or about 3,000 of them have had a live birth before age 15.”

She said Thailand hoped to learn work in England on sex and relationships education, which is to be made compulsory in all schools, and also how to provide youth-friendly services which will encourage young people to come forward for advice on contraception and sexual health in a country where many still hold conservative views and abortion is not legal.

Speaking of England’s success, Hadley said: “Teenage pregnancy is hugely reduced, but there’s always more to do because we are still higher than other western European countries. We are closing the gap but it’s still there.”

Asked to comment on reports about an 11-year-old girl becoming pregnant, she said: “Very, very young pregnancies are extremely unusual. This is like a grain of sand. It’s terribly important for that family, but it should not skew the picture of teenage pregnancy generally. It’s important to keep it in perspective.”

Read the original article by the Guardian here.

Read more about Motherhood in Childhood in Thailand here.

Info on the Prevention and Solution to the Adolescent Pregnancy Problem Act, A.D. 2016.