Girls urged to get free contraception
Director of the Bureau of Reproductive Health Kittipong Saejeng has urged young girls to get free contraceptive implants at government hospitals across the country to avoid unwanted pregnancies.
He said the implants will be effective for three to five years.
They are administered free of charge for girls aged 10 to 19, under the Prevention and Solution of the Adolescent Pregnancy Problem Act of 2016.
The contraceptives were discussed at a World Contraceptive Day conference yesterday.
According to Dr Kittipong, Thailand is experiencing a deficit in overall births per year, leading to fears of a future workforce shortage for the country's economy.
He said annual births in Thailand have dropped to 700,000 from over one million births 30 years ago.
However, of those 700,000 births, around 100,000 involved mothers under the age of 20, Dr Kittipong said.
According to him, teenage pregnancy can lead to social problems such as abandoned children growing up with a low-quality childhood and a lack of educational opportunities.
As of July last year, the adolescent pregnancy prevention act stipulated several welfare and education plans for pregnant and at-risk teens, such as the introduction of "sexuality studies" to the school curriculum and increased welfare services for adolescent mothers.
Dr Kittipong said the committee established under the act, called the "Prevention and Solution of the Adolescent Pregnancy Problem Committee," -- of which the Ministry of Public Health is also a participant -- is currently developing a welfare system that minimises negative effects on the public.
"Implementing policies to immediately address the problem could cause more problems in the future, so we must first take all the at-risk groups into account," he said.
"Welfare systems should not benefit one group more than others," he added.