In 2016, Jennifer Brown, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Cincinnati (UC) College of Medicine, was the recipient of a Grand Challenges Explorations grant, an initiative of the the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. This grant helped Brown pursue an innovative global health and development research project to assist with the family planning needs of these adolescent girls.
"There is a lack of research examining the broader cultural influences on the family planning needs of this population,” says Brown. "The primary aim of the study was to better understand the culturally relevant factors associated with the contraceptive and HIV prevention practices of South African adolescent girls between the ages of 14 and 17, who are at increased risk for unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections using a methodology called Cultural Consensus Modeling.”
Their work is focused in the Sesotho-speaking region of Bloemfontein in the Free State province in central South Africa, about four hours from the metropolitan area of Johannesburg. While there’s been a lot of work around HIV prevention health education, says Brown, it has typically been focused in major metropolitan regions and in the coastal cities.
“And in more rural, less populated areas like the Free State province, there has been very little work done in around the dynamics of HIV risk,” she adds. “Cultural factors that affect teenagers’ reproductive health decisions may also be different relative to those in the bigger cities.