This study presents findings from a systematic review of the evidence regarding the effectiveness of youth centers in increasing use of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) services in lower- and middle-income countries. Evidence from peer-reviewed and gray literature between 1990 and 2010 was reviewed. After the screening of 3,769 citations, 21 studies reporting on 17 youth center programs were included, and were ranked by strength of evidence. Considerable consistency in findings across studies was observed. Youth centers generally served a relatively small proportion of young people living nearby. The main users were young men attending school or college, with a significant proportion older than the target age. Users of the on-site SRH services were predominantly young women, with a significant proportion older than the target age group. Uptake of services was generally low. Despite widespread emphasis on youth centers as a strategy for encouraging young people to access SRH services, results from these studies have not been encouraging, and cost-effectiveness for these purposes is likely to be low.
© 2012 The Population Council, Inc.