“Magandang Kinabukasan! ”Joie, Roots of Health’s staff person’s enthusiastic greeting resonates throughout our office in San Pedro as we tune in on Saturday afternoon for UsapangK (Talk K), Roots of Health’s latest media outreach initiative.
In many small communities on the island of Palawan, where the rate of maternal mortality and teenage pregnancy are some of the highest in the country, access to information and care regarding sexual and reproductive health is exceptionally limited. Due to mountainous terrain, a lack of electricity and poor communication infrastructure, villages outside of the city are often isolated and disconnected from the resources and information that flow into Puerto Princesa City and other urban centers. Many villages continue to rely on informal information structures and the radio for the majority of their news. In response to this information crisis, Roots of Health has skillfully developed one particularly innovative strategy for carrying out our vision of self-reliant women, young people and families living healthy reproductive lives: a radio show.
In February 2015, we debuted our radio program, Usapang K, (Talk K), a talk show with the aim of educating young people on relevant topics such as HIV/AIDS, relationships, teen pregnancy, and finding gainful employment. Acknowledging that a comprehensive sexuality education extends beyond the birds and the bees, our show writers address topics such as gender roles, relevant reproductive health legislation, and substance abuse in addition to safe sex and family planning. Directed and scripted by our staff with young community members providing input and content, the radio show provides a fantastic example of how young people can be actively involved in promoting reproductive health. Talking about sex in the Philippines is taboo – sexual health can be a sensitive topic and young people are often worried about the social stigma or embarrassment associated with discussing sex and contraception with relatives or partners. By discussing such topics in an open, honest, non-judgemental manner, we give young people information they can identify with and understand, and help inform them of the options available to them. This is crucial in a country where myths and misconceptions surrounding reproductive health are real obstacles to young people accessing services. Usapang K is a prime example of how reproductive health organizations can expand their delivery channels to engage young people to help raise awareness of sexual and reproductive healthcare in hard-to-reach communities.