DAVAO CITY—Health and population authorities here are pressing for the creation of more teen centers down to the campus and barangay levels to control a notable spike in teen pregnancy incidents with complications in risky behaviors that could lead to sexual abuse and spread of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).
The teen centers would cater not only to the sexual problems among adolescents, but also to multiple mental, psychological, social and physical abuses “that persons at their age level have difficulty coping with by themselves alone,” according to Dr. Raquel Montejo, chief of the family cluster of the regional Department of Health (DOH) here.
Of the region’s four Davao provinces and Compostela Valley, only Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley have functioning teen centers in the major towns and in their district hospitals, although it was the newly created Davao Occidental province which has posted the highest incidence of teen pregnancy in the region.
Montejo said two directives issued separately by Gov. Anthony G. del Rosario of Davao del Norte and Gov. Jayvee Tyron Uy of Compostela Valley prompted the provinces to improve the services they render to the adolescent sector compared with the rest of the region, including Davao City.
Their directives suit well with the framework of the DOH and the Population Commission (PopCom), which wanted the teen and adolescent centers to be established in government facilities like hospitals, rural health units and clinics, in barangay halls and in school campuses.
The Davao City health office has assured the DOH and the PopCom it would renew its push to have these centers established in as many accessible facilities as possible, Montejo said. The city has its own teen center previously but has folded up.
Cheryl B. Amor, chief of the Information Management and Communications Unit of the regional PopCom office here, said the teen centers would serve as “counseling, listening and referring” centers for teenager and adolescent concerns.
Schools would be in a better position to establish their respective centers catering to their students, because they already have their own guidance counselors, she said. “In many schools, there are also nurses and clinical facilities to attend to the needs of troubled teenagers,” Amor said. “But in schools with no licensed guidance counselors, they have to refer them to trained counselors,” she added.
In the communities where the centers would be established inside the barangay halls, the DOH has recommended “that peer counselors would be detailed there because the troubled teens find it comfortable with someone within their age level to speak with and to seek advises from.”
“The DOH would do away with the adults inside the teen centers because it is most likely that the teens would easily associate the adults as maybe friends or associate of their parents,” Montejo added.
This is “especially noteworthy to consider in the Philippines, where the parents and other members of the family have been the widely reported [to be the] perpetrators of different forms of abuse inflicted on girls,” he said.
Montejo said they are eyeing to possibly equip the centers with telephones, owing to the likelihood of adolescent victims of abuse would likely shun a face-to-face interaction.
The rush to have more teen centers arose from the noted increase in teen pregnancy and incidence of engaging in multiple partners, in both categories of which placed the region on the top spot nationwide in the 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey.
The region posted 17.9 percent of women in the 15 to 19 age group who begun childbearing. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said this proportion almost doubled the national figure of 8.6 percent, and it said this made Davao region the top among the 17 administrative regions in terms of teenage pregnancy.
Two other Mindanao regions followed the Davao region, the Soccsksargen, or the Cotabato provinces, with 11.8 percent; and Northern Mindanao, with 11.6 percent, respectively.
Also, an item on the number of sexual partners among women in the 15 to 49 age group, the Davao region came out on top, with an average of 2.1 partners during the past 12 months preceding the survey.
Abuse and violence
An implication of these two categories alone could be vast and serious, as the survey found out a sizable proportion of women, at 26.9 percent or slightly a quarter of women in the 15 to 49 age group, have been or actually sexually engaged with multiple sex partners, aside from those who have experienced physical, sexual or emotional violence.
Montejo said the women and girls experiencing various forms of violence and abuse needed more than medical care and attention, which the regional health facilities have also posted high coverage in terms of providing and extending ante and postnatal care.
Health authorities have repeatedly warned of teenage pregnancy on concerns over the preparedness of a girl’s body to sustain pregnancy, and in the rigors of delivery and postnatal complications.
For teenage girls, and even boys, Montejo said, the DOH was informed by the state-run Southern Philippine Medical Center here and the Davao Regional Hospital in Tagum City about the increasing incidence of suicide attempts.
“One of the SSG [Supreme Student Government] officers in a school in Compostela Valley even has a case of previous suicide attempt. How much more for an ordinary student, how much [more if] he or she handles the problem alone, especially that a big cause of the problem came…within the family,” she said.
For both married and unmarried women who engaged in multiple partners, the concern would be both on the increased risk to sexually transmitted diseases, as well as to unwanted pregnancy, much less on the abuse from their partners.
“We have a serious concern here to provide psychological attention and to the problematic teenagers, and especially the women and girls,” she said.
Montejo said the other provinces in the region should try to catch up and establish also their own adolescent and teen centers to cope with the expected swell in the demand for more listening ears to their problems.