Today I visited a health clinic and met with a woman who runs the programs responsible for providing sex education, alcohol and smoking prevention, and testing for STDs. Since healthcare is free in Russia, citizens have more access to contraception and consultation. If you are 15 or older, you can go to the gynecologist alone without parental consent. You can also receive prescription birth control at that age. Because care of the reproductive health is very important, Russians begin going to the gynecologist at the age of one month. The government wants people to be able to have healthy children so they take extra measures to make sure youth stay healthy.
However, they do face some of the same issues we have. Many teens do not want to go to the clinic because of the stigma related to it. They do not worry about their peers, but if a parent’s friend see them going into the clinic they fear their parents will find out. Abortions are also another topic of debate similar to the US. Some policy makers want to issue a passport to the unborn child in order to make the abortion illegal. However, it is easier to access abortions and to have one you would only pay about $200.
The woman at the clinic that I spoke with really enjoyed what I told her about Girls in the Game. She was very passionate about her job and shared some of the activities she uses to teach health educators. Teachers come to her voluntarily to learn how to teach sex and health education. It is not mandated in schools, but some teachers believe it should be a priority. She provides them with access to her curriculum and activities.
I also observed a health education workshop for health educators on the topic of nutrition education. The topics were behind the times as far as what we teach in the States, possibly because of the days of the Soviet Union. On December 1st, Petrozavods will get their first McDonalds. Many people are happy about this, but honestly it breaks my heart. The influence of the American diet is slowly infiltrating this culture and I can tell it will greatly affect the health of Russian citizens. The concept of “healthy lifestyle” is relatively new to the nation. I believe many Russian families and citizens value a healthy lifestyle, but are uneducated on how to be healthy. Their traditional cuisine and way of life was pretty healthy before being introduced to “trash” food as my translator translated the term today. This is what I am going to call it from now on.
I also spent some time playing battle ship with Vlad, my host family’s son. It was a good way for me to learn Russian letters and numbers. He was happy that we could finally find some way to play without having to talk to each other, though he still speaks to me as if I know Russian. I gave him a Gatorade bottle and he has not been seen without it since.
Tomorrow is my last day here in Petrosavodsk. Before I leave, I recieved the opportunity to Co-Coach with Liudmila a sample Girls in the Game session to third and fourth graders. We will learn the five-finger contract, play Octopus Tag, Stretch, Fox (a soccer or ‘fud bol’ activity), and do star jumps for clean teeth. We have limited time, so I hope we can get it all in with the translations!
Spasiba (Thank you)