Would you offer contraception to a 14-year-old girl? Perspectives of health students and professionals in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Dorkasi L. Mwakawanga, Ever Mkonyi, Stella E. Mushy, Maria Trent, Zobeida Bonilla, Agnes F. Massae, Gift G. Lukumay, Lucy R. Mgopa, Inari Mohammed, James Wadley, Michael W. Ross, Sebalda Leshabari, B. R.Simon Rosser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: Rates of unplanned adolescent pregnancy and unsafe induced abortions are very high in Sub-Saharan African countries including Tanzania. Despite their availability and accessibility, modern family planning methods are reported to be critically underutilized by adolescents. This study is part of a broader study that aims to develop a curriculum that will be used in training health professionals by investigating the sexual health training needs of health providers and students in Tanzania. Aim: This study describes the perceptions of health professionals and students on the provision of contraceptives to adolescents. Methods: Qualitative formative assessment type of research was conducted using 18 focus groups stratified among health professionals and students (midwives, nurses, and medical doctors). Study participants were presented with the theoretical scenario of a 14-year-old girl who sought contraceptive services at a family planning clinic. This theoretical scenario was used to determine how health professionals and students would handle the case. Thematic analysis guided the examination and determination of data results. Results: Three main themes emerged from the data, including (1) knowledge about the provision of contraceptives to adolescents, (2) perception of the adolescents’ right to contraceptive use, and (3) barriers to the provision of contraceptives to adolescents. Participants stated that having a baseline knowledge of contraceptive services for adolescents and their rights to contraceptives would trigger their decision on offering the contraceptive. On the other hand, being unaware of the reproductive health rights for adolescents, judgmental behavior of providers, as well as religious and cultural dynamics were all found to be major barriers for providers to offer contraceptive services to the 14-year-old adolescent girl in the theoretical scenario. Conclusion: These findings support the need for comprehensive sexual health education in Tanzanian health professional training programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number245
JournalReproductive Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We acknowledge, with thanks, the assistance of MUHAS, Muhimbili National Hospital, Mnazi Mmoja Hospital, and Aga Khan Hospital in Dar es Salaam for help in recruiting the providers and on-site space to conduct the provider focus groups. We warmly acknowledge our beloved late colleague, Dr. Sebalda Leshabari, PhD. She was a principal investigator on this study until her death in October 2020.

Funding Information:
This manuscript was authored as part of the Training for Health Professionals study funded by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), National Institutes of Health, Grant number: 1 R01 HD092655. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s).


  • Adolescent
  • Family planning
  • Health professionals
  • Health students
  • Provision
  • Tanzania


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