September 16, 2021 – As part of the One Health Week celebration, the Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Health (DOH), and Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM) on September 09 launched the Comprehensive Sexuality Education and Adolescent Reproductive Health (CSE-ARH) Convergence. This is part of the whole-of-government response to the ongoing challenges of high levels of adolescent pregnancies, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) infection, and other reproductive health issues among young people.

The CSE focuses on the integration of scientific, age- and developmentally appropriate, and culturally and gender-responsive information on the cognitive, emotional, physical, and social aspects of sexuality in the K-12 Curriculum. The ARH Program, on the other hand, focuses on the establishment of facilities of information for responsible parenthood and reproductive health concerns, including capacity building and health promotion activities for learners and DepEd personnel, and on ensuring the provision of counseling and proper referral for learners’ reproductive health concerns.

With proper implementation of the convergence of CSE-ARH, the health status of adolescents may be improved through linking classroom instruction to critical adolescent reproductive health interventions accessible from various public social and health facilities within the community.

“Through the CSE-ARH Convergence, the Department affirms its commitment in ensuring that the reproductive health and other medical needs of its learners are comprehensively attended to,” Education Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones said.

“We invite all sectors to join us in this whole-of-government, whole-of-society approach in addressing this priority issue,” the Education chief added.

The CSE-ARH Convergence launching was part of DepEd’s One Health Week featuring the flagship programs of Oplan Kalusugan sa DepEd (OK sa DepEd).

This convergence is also a part of the realization of the multi-stakeholder consensus “The 2019 Declaration on Addressing the Education, Health and Development Issues of Early Pregnancy” which was drafted during the “2019 Kapit Kamay Summit: Empowering the Youth to Make Informed Choices.”

Through this convergence, the CSE-ARH referral pathway will be strengthened from school-based interventions to creating linkages to adolescent-friendly health services. Vital components to this convergence are (1) Endorsement and Partnership, (2) Tools & Materials Development, (3) Training & Capacity Building, (4) Delivery of Quality ARH Services, and (5) Monitoring, Evaluation, and Learning (MEL).

DOH Undersecretary and Spokesperson Dr. Maria Rosario Singh-Vergeire also emphasized the importance of promoting and protecting community support in the local government units (LGUs), which is a critical determinant of health and well-being for Adolescent Sexual and Reproductive Health, through the health promotion playbook titled “The KADA Network” or Key Assistance for Developing Adolescence Network.

“Ang pagdaragdag sa kaalaman at pagbubuti ng pag-uugali ng kabataan patungkol sa kanilang sexual and reproductive health ay ang unang hakbang natin patungo sa isang Healthy Pilipinas. Minimithi ng Kagawaran ng Kalusugan na mabigyan ng katapusan ang teenage pregnancy sa ating bansa at tayong lahat ay magsasama sa pagpapababa ng HIV cases dito sa Pilipinas,” Usec. Vergeire shared.

Undersecretary Juan Antonio A. Perez III, MD, MPH, executive director of the Commission on Population and Development (POPCOM), also contextualized the CSE-ARH convergence as a concrete response to the recently issued Executive Order No. 141, which adopted as a national priority the implementation of measures addressing the root causes of teenage pregnancies.

“With the convergence of POPCOM, DepEd, and DOH under CSE-ARH, we believe our synergies, guided by the tenets of EO 141, will soon curb the numbers of unplanned pregnancies among adolescents. This convergence is an immediate response to the call of EO 141 for a whole-of-government approach in addressing early childbirths nationwide,” said Usec. Perez.

Usec. Perez, further expressed that the EO 141 will be pursued through the interlinked strategies of CSE, provision of ASRH services, preventing sexual abuse and gender-based violence, provision of socioeconomic development interventions, as well as promoting youth participation and development.

“We join hands with you at DepEd to strengthen comprehensive sexuality education-adolescent reproductive health links to facilitate collaboration between schools and communities and to empower learners so that they can access age-appropriate information and services that will help,” USAID Philippines Office of Health Director Michelle Lang-Alli ended.