June 29, 2011 -- The onset of puberty is a critical moment for reaching girls with health messages and information, and the stakes are particularly high in countries where the HIV/AIDS epidemic rages and where threats to female reproductive health abound. Yet to date, the healthcare community in low-resource countries has tended to neglect this opportunity and instead concentrate efforts on young women who are older and of reproductive age.
In Tanzania, a multi-year project to address this gap has been led by Marni Sommer, DrPH, MSN, RN, at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. Since 2006, Dr. Sommer has worked with Tanzanian girls and health authorities to develop a culturally sensitive programin the form of a bookthat delivers critical information about puberty and health, answering questions that the girls, themselves raise. Research on this project, known as the Girl's Puberty Book Project appears in the current issue of the International Electronic Journal of Health Education.
"The Girl's Puberty Book provides a critical interim step towards improving girls' comfort levels during puberty and offers an opportunity for teacher and parent discussions with young girls on reproduction, menstrual onset and management, and body change, reaching an important window before the onset of sexual activity," said Dr. Sommer. "Given the numerous health-related risks faced by adolescent girls and women in low-income countries, such as infection with HIV, unsafe abortions, and gender-based violence, policy and programs that aim to ensure that girls transition through puberty with a healthy body and a sense of empowerment are an important component of improving population health."
The first phase of the Girl's Book Project occurred in 2006 - 2007 when Dr. Sommer explored girls' experiences of puberty and menstruation using in-depth interviews and participatory activities to capture the voices of Tanzanian girls and informatio
|Contact: Stephanie Berger|
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health