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Innovative game created by and for young people offers information on medical abortion

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

characters from www.notebaja.orgIn an interactive game created by Ipas Mexico, characters in the narrative explore options for an unwanted pregnancy.

Any young woman who uses an interactive computer game designed by Ipas Mexico is guided from the starting point of a missed period through an educational journey that helps her decide whether she wants to continue or terminate her pregnancy—and in the case of the latter, whether medical abortion is the right choice for her.

The game, When prevention fails: How to terminate a pregnancy with drugs, is available only in Spanish and presents the story of Claudia and Pedro, a young couple facing an unwanted pregnancy. Through their narrative, the game poses questions that lead users to information about pregnancy identification, estimating gestational age, and pregnancy options including the use of misoprostol for abortion. This interactive tool was developed by and for young people and caters to the preference youth often have for confidential and private information related to sexuality and pregnancy.

“We had guidance material about medical abortion that was geared toward health-care workers, but we still needed material for youth that explained in non-technical terms how to use misoprostol,” explains Maria Elena Collado, Ipas Mexico community access associate. “This is why we decided to use new technologies to develop information specifically for and with young people.” Ipas has disseminated the game as a CD-ROM.

While first-trimester abortion has been legal in Mexico City since April 2007, it is still highly restricted in the country’s 31 states, putting young women between 15 and 29 years of age—who comprise the largest age group seeking abortion services—at increased risk of unsafe abortion. Misoprostol is widely available in pharmacies across Mexico, and women know it can be used to safely terminate a pregnancy, but many pharmacy workers lack knowledge of the correct dosing regimens and don’t have the time or skills to advise women on how to use the drug correctly. Without a source of reliable information, women are in danger of buying the wrong pills (counterfeit pills are widespread), taking the wrong dose, or not knowing when to seek medical assistance or follow-up care.

“The game is designed to reduce harm to young women by arming them with accurate information about medical abortion to support their decisionmaking process,” Collado says. In addition, the game provides an appealing alternative to more traditional ways of disseminating reproductive health information.

“Young people are comfortable with new technologies, which makes computer games, websites and social media critical sources of information that cannot be ignored,” explains Alyson Hyman, Ipas community access senior associate. “The beauty of this game is that it’s attractive as well as informative, and thus appeals to young people in a way that many other resources with reproductive health information do not.”

How it works: Make decisions, receive relevant information

As users answer questions, they are prompted with further questions and led through various scenarios depending on their decisions at each juncture. First, the game helps women identify their stage of pregnancy. If they are nine weeks pregnant or less, then they are able to choose between options including medical abortion and other pregnancy termination services. If a woman chooses medical abortion, she is then provided accurate dosage information and instructions on how to use misoprostol.

Furthermore, “the program not only provides clinical information; it also provides some level of emotional counseling too,” Collado adds. “The young woman in the narrative has a boyfriend and in the first few screens, she talks through whether she wants to make the decision to abort by herself or with support from her partner. She ends up urging users to talk about their decision with someone they trust.”

This project is just one of several initiatives Ipas is developing in collaboration with youth organizations.

“We believe that youth are best positioned to know what decisions are right for them, and that young people’s perspectives, strategies and innovations offer tremendous opportunities to advance Ipas’s work,” says Leila Hessini, Ipas director of community access and youth. “We want to see a world where all young people’s sexual and reproductive rights are upheld, and this requires us to address the misconceptions that young people are not sexually active and that they should not have a voice on the issues that affect them most.”