Perspectives on Contraception Among Youth: Exploring the Impact of Socio-Cultural and Structural Forces in Fort St. James, BC

(September 2007 – August 2008; BCSMF)

Principal Investigator(s): 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 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, especially as it appears that many northern youth may be facing barriers to accessing and using contraception effectively. This 1-year exploratory qualitative study was designed to:

(1) Describe youth’s perspectives and experiences with accessing and using contraception, as well as perspectives of service providers;

(2) Investigate the ways in which socio-cultural factors (e.g., social norms, gender roles, culture) and structural forces (e.g. health service delivery mechanisms, privacy, geographic location) affect local contraception services; and

(3) Develop recommendations to tailor and target contraception interventions intended for youth in northern British Columbia.

This study was conducted in Fort St. James. We conducted in-depth interviews with 30 English-speaking youth (ages 15 – 24) and 10 health service providers, as well as 8 weeks of participant observation and an analysis of local media reports relevant to youth. Using a purposive sampling strategy, we selected 15 female and 15 male youth with varied socio-cultural and economic backgrounds, specifically seeking 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. The research team worked closely with an Advisory Committee, First Nations members, clinicians and participants to improve ongoing service provision and to develop new and targeted, locally generated interventions to address the needs of youth for contraception services.

Total: $49,943.50