Each year an estimated 16 million young women worldwide give birth between ages 15 and 19, and a further one million girls give birth before age 15. 95% of these births take place in low or middle income countries. Births for younger adolescents in these countries risk the lives of both the mother and child.
The research challenge was to provide evidence on the scale of births to adolescents and the impacts on their health outcomes. The second challenge was in using this information to inform and influence actions to address this issue across the world, particularly in developing countries.
The Southampton team’s research and knowledge sharing has included:
- Identifying health threats to girls and young women in low-income countries;
- Identifying levels of childbearing amongst young adolescents (<16 years) in sub-Saharan Africa;
- Identifying geographic “pockets” of childbearing amongst young adolescents;
- Creating online resources to ensure that accurate statistics are available and easily accessible to health workers, journalists, and health policymakers;
- Developing the “Atlas of Birth” (started 2010) to give a global picture of maternal health, highlighting preventable maternal deaths as well as the high levels of higher-risk births to adolescents. This was developed into a website in 2015;
- Informed and helped create MamaYe, a social accountability movement for six African countries.
The researchers worked with several key partners to bring about change, including:
- United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)
- Partnership for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (PMNCH), World Health Organization (WHO)
- MamaYe partners in 6 countries in Africa
- WorldPop interdisciplinary research group in Southampton