Few rigorous evaluations have been conducted of locally designed, culturally consistent adolescent reproductive health programs.
A quasi-experimental research design was used to measure behavioral changes associated with a culturally consistent reproductive health program for young people in Kenya. Baseline and endline surveys were conducted in 1997 and 2001, respectively, in the project and control areas. Multivariate analysis was used to assess whether the project was associated with changes in young people’s sexual initiation, safer-sex behavior and discussion of reproductive health issues with adults.
The 36-month project was associated with considerable changes in young people’s sexual and reproductive health-related behavior, but behavior change differed by gender. Females in the project site were significantly more likely than those in the control site to adopt secondary abstinence (odds ratio, 3.3) and less likely to have had three or more sex partners (0.1). Males in the project site were more likely to use condoms than those in the control site (3.7). Both males and females in the project site were more likely to discuss sexual and reproductive health issues with a nonparent adult than were young people in the control site (1.9 and 5.5, respectively).
Interventions that adapt to indigenous traditions can be both acceptable to communities and associated with significant changes in young people’s behavior.