Female literacy linked to teenage pregnancies in Africa

A high teenage pregnancy rate in Africa is directly linked to poor female literacy, researchers have found.

The continent has one of the highest levels of teenage pregnancies in the world but until now there have been few investigations into the determining factors.

A new study conducted by University of Wolverhampton academics uses World Bank Organisation data to examine social and economic influencers.

In a series of two articles results suggest that health care expenditure, female literacy rate and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita are the main predictors of teenage pregnancy, with the literacy rate being the key predictor.

Poor access to sexual health services and urbanisation were also determinants of teenage pregnancy amongst developing countries.

Opeyemi Odejimi, a doctoral student who worked with senior Public Health lecturer, Denise Bellingham-Young, while studying for her Master of Public Health degree have put together recommendations in a policy pathway document, including strategies to increase female literacy, which they believe would help reduce the rate.

Opeyemi said: “A significant strong relationship was observed between literacy rate with contraceptive prevalence rate and healthcare expenditure, illustrating that in African countries where literacy rate is high, contraceptive prevalence rate and healthcare expenditure is also high.

“A policy pathway to reduce teenage pregnancy rate in Africa is one that puts in place policies and strategies to increase female literacy. This will increase both the use of contraception amongst females and the healthcare expenditure. The overall effect would be an increased GDP per capita of the nation.

“It would also reduce rural-urban migration, as more educated females within the rural region would utilise the skills and knowledge gained while in education to develop their communities.”

She added policies to increase female literacy rate in Africa would also help ensure that individuals are literate enough to understand the sex and relationship education given, and are able to dispel myths and misconception.

“Many of our students go on to work in public health roles around the world including Africa. The findings will now be used to inform future teaching of the Masters in Public Health (MPH) and also to advise policy makers on practical approaches to reduce teenage pregnancy in Africa,” she said.

Denise added: “This is an excellent example of some of the work our Masters students do and how data analysis can be used to tell a story that can impact lives.  We expanded the work from the original dissertation to uncover the key predictors of teenage pregnancy and design the policy pathway.”

The report is a large population-based study with national coverage of all countries in Africa and the findings are representative of the continent as a whole.

ENDS

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