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Rural Waikato Youth Not Shy About Sexual Health

Darrel Carlin - 12/04/08

A free sexual health and contraception service for under 25-year-olds in rural Waikato has proven effective for Maori, Pacific and high need youth, a recent report shows.

Four and a half thousand young people used the service in the year from November 2006 to October 2007 and on average each patient accessed the service twice. Of these a quarter of all eligible youth using the sexual health service are Maori or Pacific while they make up 21% of the population, showing the utilisation rate for Maori and Pacific youth is slightly higher than for other ethnic groups.

This is good news according to Waikato Primary Health Operations Manager Erica Amon because Maori are disproportionately represented in sexually transmitted infections and teenage pregnancy statistics.

Waikato Primary Health implemented the Sexual Health Project (U25) in 2004 in some parts of rural Waikato following a youth survey that identified barriers preventing young people accessing health care. This service was extended 12 months ago to ensure that, in combination with contracts in place with other providers, the whole of rural Waikato has access to the service.

The Sexual Health Project (U25) Evaluation Report provides encouraging news for health care workers and caregivers concerned about poor health outcomes of young Maori and Pacific.

Amon says users of the service could be young women seeking contraceptive advice, pregnancy tests or cervical smears. Or it could be a young person who may have contracted a sexually transmitted infection, or someone who just wants to ask questions.

"Access is increased firstly by providing the service free, and secondly by providing access to practice nurses or GPs. This increases young people's sexual and reproductive health and knowledge."

Amon says attendances in the Waikato region are growing as people learn more about what is being offered.

"This response highlights to us that we have improved the access for Maori and Pacific youth. We're delighted this health need is being met and it's the first step toward impacting on these poor statistics," she says.

"And this positive result reflects the main aim of primary health care which is to make health services accessible to everyone, and to improve health outcomes."

About Waikato Primary Health
Waikato Primary Health promotes the coordination of health care for people in Waikato communities. They work with health providers including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists, Maori health workers and health promotion workers who look after people enrolled with Waikato Primary Health.

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