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01.12.2018 | Study protocol | Ausgabe 1/2018 Open Access

Reproductive Health 1/2018

Community based interventions for strengthening adolescent sexual reproductive health and rights: how can they be integrated and sustained? A realist evaluation protocol from Zambia

Reproductive Health > Ausgabe 1/2018
Joseph M. Zulu, Isabel Goicolea, John Kinsman, Ingvild Fossgard Sandøy, Astrid Blystad, Chama Mulubwa, Mpundu C. Makasa, Charles Michelo, Patrick Musonda, Anna-Karin Hurtig



Research that explores how community-based interventions for strengthening adolescent sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) can be integrated and sustained in community health systems, is, to the best of our knowledge, very scarce, if not absent. It is important to document mechanisms that shape integration process in order to improve health systems’ responsiveness towards adolescents’ SRHR. This realist evaluation protocol will contribute to this knowledge in Zambia where there is increased attention towards promoting maternal, neonatal and child health as a means of addressing the current high early pregnancy and marriage rates. The protocol will ascertain: why, how, and under what conditions the integration of SRHR interventions into Zambian community health systems will optimise (or not) acceptability and adoption of SRHR services. This study is embedded within a randomized controlled trial - “Research Initiative to Support the Empowerment of Girls (RISE)”- which aims to reduce adolescent girl pregnancies and marriages through a package of interventions including economic support to families, payment of school fees to keep girls in school, pocket money for girls, as well as youth club and community meetings on reproductive health.


This is a multiple-case study design. Data will be collected from schools, health facilities and communities through individual and group interviews, photovoice, documentary review, and observations. The study process will involve 1) developing an initial causal theory that proposes an explanation of how the integration of a community-based intervention that aimed to integrate adolescent SRHR into the community health system may lead to adolescent-friendly services; 2) refining the causal theory through case studies; 3) identifying contextual conditions and mechanisms that shape the integration process; and 4) finally proposing a refined causal theory and set of recommendations to guide policy makers, steer further research, and inform teaching programmes.


The study will document relevant values as well as less formal and horizontal mechanisms which shape the integration process of SRHR interventions at community level. Knowledge on mechanisms is essential for guiding development of strategies for effectively facilitating the integration process, scaling up processes and sustainability of interventions aimed at reducing SRH problems and health inequalities among adolescents.
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