Experiences with contraception among youth in Northern BC: Examining the impact of gender, place and culture

(April 2008 – March 2011; CIHR)

Principal Investigator: Judith Soon

Co-Investigator(s): Neil Hanlon; Joy Johnson; Mary-Ellen Kelm; Jean Shoveller

Despite public health efforts, pregnancy rates among teens in rural and northern British Columbia (BC) are 60% higher than the provincial average. Gender, place and culture help shape social interactions and structural conditions that put the sexual health of many youth at risk. Experiences with contraception are critical to youth’s sexual health and warrant further investigation, since many northern youth may be facing barriers to accessing and using contraception effectively.

This 2-year exploratory qualitative study worked to: (1) Describe the perspectives of youth in accessing and using contraception, and the perspectives of service providers working in the area of youth sexual health; (2) Investigate the ways that gender, place and culture concomitantly affect youth’s experiences with contraception; and (3) Develop recommendations to tailor and target contraception interventions intended for youth in northern BC. This study employed ethnographic fieldwork in Fort St. John and Vanderhoof, with 8 weeks of participant observation in each community. We conducted in-depth interviews with 30 English-speaking youth (ages 15 – 24) and 10 health and social service providers in each community. Using a purposive sampling strategy, we selected 15 female and 15 male youth with varied socio-cultural and economic backgrounds. We specifically sought to include sexually active heterosexual couples (interviewed separately to maintain privacy), men and women of aboriginal ancestry and youth with various experiences with contraception and pregnancy. We recruited health and social service providers following consultation with community stakeholders. Researchers worked closely with the Expert Advisory Committee, OPTions for Sexual Health, First Nations representatives, clinicians and study participants to launch community-specific clinical interventions to address contraception inequities.

Total: $181,734

Outcomes from this project are detailed in the following articles and reports:

Soon, J. A., Shoveller, J. A., Johnson, J. L., Kelm, M. E., & Hanlon, N. (2009). Youth’s Perspectives on Birth Control in Fort St. James, BC: Community Report for Service Providers. Vancouver: Self-published.