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Adolescents make up a significant and growing proportion of the population in the Pacific. These young people are just entering their sexual and reproductive years, with the majority reporting onset of sexual activity during this age.
Many adolescents ill-prepared for this transition, lacking adequate knowledge about sexual and reproductive health with poor access to comprehensive information and services.
Subsequently, adolescents in the Pacific face a disproportionate burden of poor sexual and reproductive health, including early and unintended pregnancy. Adolescent pregnancy is common in this region: up to a quarter of girls aged 15-19 have already commenced childbearing in some countries and many pregnancies are unintended.
In 2009, Burnet undertook a review of data from 11 countries in the Pacific and Asia to identify key sexual and reproductive health needs of adolescents. The review found that despite onset of sexual activity being common among 15-19 year olds in this region, adolescents are less protected against unintended pregnancy, have higher unmet need for contraception, less comprehensive knowledge, and poorer access to information and services than adult women.
Research conducted in Vanuatu in partnership with Wan Smolbag Theatre in 2010 described in-depth the barriers that limit adolescents’ access to information and services, and identified the key features of ‘adolescent-friendly’ health care.
In 2012, Burnet commenced a community-based randomised controlled trial to evaluate a peer-led intervention to address adolescent pregnancy in Vanuatu. Conducted in partnership with Wan Smolbag, this study has also examined the context of early pregnancy, experiences of sexual violence, and improved understanding of unsafe abortion practices.
2009 – 2019
Wan Smolbag Theatre, Vanuatu