A first-of-its-kind mobile app in Nepal is providing an innovative way for young adults to access sexual and reproductive health (SRH) information.
The Android-based app – named Mero Lagi, or “For Me” in Nepali – was developed to provide clear and correct SRH information primarily to adolescents aged 15 to 24, as well as adults of any age group, parents and teachers.
While young Nepalis are more open about sex these days and are eager and curious to know more, they do not have many avenues to turn to for credible information about SRH issues as society still considers it a taboo. To provide credible information and empower young people to make good health decisions, the Public Health Concern Trust-Nepal (phect-Nepal) worked with medical and public health experts and the Health Communication Capacity Collaborative (HC3) – based at the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs – to develop a solution.
Use of an electronic tool such as an app made sense – in Nepal, about 80 percent of 15- to 24-year-olds in urban areas and about 60 percent in rural areas own mobile phones. Among this age group, mobile devices are increasingly becoming the dominant source for information sharing and, as a result, phect-NEPAL felt a smart phone app could be an appropriate medium to leverage the technological adeptness of adolescents and inform them on sensitive SRH issues.
With guidance from HC3, the phect-Nepal team carefully followed the steps laid out in the Demand Generation Implementation Kit (I-Kit) for Underutilized, Life-saving Commodities to conduct research with their audience and develop content for the app. Among the life-saving commodities identified in the I-Kit, Mero Lagi provides information about three specifically – female condoms, emergency contraceptive pills and contraceptive implants. After conducting extensive formative research on Nepali youth and SRH, including a literature review and focus group discussions, the team developed the mobile app.
The resulting app is attractive, attention-grabbing and includes clear and correct SRH information adolescents can easily understand, learn from and relate to. The information mainly focuses on:
- Reproductive health information, including an overview of the reproductive system and puberty
- Social aspects of sexual health including healthy relationships, positive body image and gender
- Sexual health, including sexually transmitted infections (STIs), consequences of unplanned and unwanted pregnancy and contraceptives
- Resources such as information on health/help centers and their locations
Based on feedback from young people, the app now also includes an anonymous, interactive section where users can share their stories and questions, and experts can review and respond.
An official launch event held on March 15, 2017, at Kirtipur Hospital in Kathmandu, Nepal, included partner agencies, local leaders and community members.
“The app is beautifully designed and packed with information on reproductive health. The Mero Lagi app is a proof of concept of the I-Kit and also an example of strengthening distributed social and behavior change communication capacity in-country,” said Pranab Rajbhandari, Deputy Director of HC3 Nepal. “I couldn’t help but smile as I listened yesterday to phect outline the process of conceptualization, situation analysis, development, pretesting and refining. A lot of work has gone into the process and it is a useful tool for the intended audience.”
A recent article in the Kathmandu Post notes the app is already finding traction among users. Dr. Rolina Dhital, one of the creators of Mero Lagi, describes this early usage, saying, “We are heartened by the queries that are flooding in. When we get to read real questions, by real adolescents out there, we feel like we are solving a problem that had not been addressed before, that we are filling a void.”
Mero Lagi is available to download in both Nepali and English, and is available free on Google Play™.
Read more about the process involved in designing the app in this Case Study: Development of an Android Mobile Application for Adolescents and Youth on Sexual and Reproductive Health in Nepal.