Newly capped Dr Joyce Twahafifwa Shatilwe.

PhD Study Shines the Spotlight on Pregnant Adolescent Girls

Dr Joyce Twahafifwa Shatilwe graduated with a PhD degree in Public Health following her study titled: Access and Utilisation of Maternal and Child Health Care information provided to Adolescent Girls during Pregnancy in Ohangwena Region, Namibia.

Supervised by Professor Tivani Mashamba-Thompson, the study examined the barriers and challenges faced by adolescent girls aged 15 to 19 in accessing and utilising maternal and child health-care information (MCHI) during pregnancy.

‘The majority of adolescent girls have no knowledge of what to do next when they fall pregnant and as a result, they access maternal health services very late, leading to complications that could have been identified and prevented,’ said Shatilwe.

The study was guided by the Andersen and Newman model of healthcare utilisation. The scoping review revealed the lack of research on accessibility and utilisation of maternal and child health-care information among adolescent girls during pregnancy. ‘Strategies such as telemedicine and text messages were found to be effective in encouraging pregnant girls to access such services.’

The cross-sectional study found that thedistance to the nearest health facility, a lack of transport and poor road infrastructure to access maternal healthcare were challenges for a majority of the participants.

Shatilwe hopes that her findings and recommendations will assist different stakeholders to identify strategies to empower adolescent girls to access and utilise information during their pregnancy and to be well prepared before they fall pregnant.

She is currently reaching out to academic institutions for opportunities to assist with research coaching, mentoring and supervising of master’s and PhD students. She holds three master’s degrees, a postgraduate diploma in Project Management and a Bachelors of Nursing as well as a Diploma in General Nursing and mentors a number of young people.

Shatilwe is married and has five girls, three of whom are at university and two at secondary school.

Words: Nombuso Dlamini