As I was on my way to work this morning and scanning radio stations, I heard a story being told about Ryan Phillippe and I immediately was all ears. The big news was that Ryan Phillippe was recently shopping for condoms in a store and he was supposedly heckled so badly that he dropped his basket and ran out of the store. This story got me thinking about two things, A) Doesn’t Ryan Phillippe have “people” that buy stuff for him? and B) If Ryan Phillippe is too uncomfortable to purchase condoms, then what is that saying about our young people’s experience purchasing condoms? The story of Ryan Phillippe is just an example of how sales persons and other shoppers in a retail environment can truly prevent people, especially young people, to purchase condoms. Purchasing condoms seems simple enough, right?
I am sure that when anyone mentions the issue of condom availability, the first thing to come to your mind is a health clinic. However, health clinics are not the only access point for young people to purchase condoms. It should be recognized that there are multiple access points for young people to purchase condoms, including retail locations. So what do we know about the environment of these retail locations? Is it easy for young people to get condoms? Are young people being refused to purchase condoms? Are there other young people experiencing the same thing that Ryan Phillippe experienced? There is very little data on the “adolescent friendliness” of retail locations in regards to condom access for young people. Some retail locations are open 24 hours a day, which means that young people could have access to low-cost condoms at any time during the day or night.
It is important that as we live and work in a community that we remember that our young people have the right to protect themselves and have access to tools that keep them safe. It is our responsibility as community members, business owners, local leaders and citizens to provide safe and friendly spaces for young people to access services and information. The story of Ryan Phillippe is one that many young people can relate to and have possibly encountered in their own experience. So think about it….you may not directly work with youth and your organization may not directly be related to teen pregnancy but what can you do to make your organization more adolescent friendly? What experience does your environment provide to young people?
Young people have enough stressors and social pressures, why can’t we just make it comfortable for them to go to the store to pick up milk, bread …and condoms?
In response to the abovementioned research needs, the Campaign has recently begun a new project called “Secret Shopper”. The purpose of this project is to assess the teen friendliness of retail locations by sending in young people to purchase condoms as ‘secret shoppers’. We have conducted this project in counties across South Carolina. The Campaign is currently analyzing the results of this project and will be disseminating the findings within the coming months. The Campaign is confident that the results from this project will provide valuable data about the friendliness of retail locations and the extent to which condoms are available at retail locations to young people throughout the state.
by: Sarah Kershner, MPH, CHES, Reserach and Evaluation Specialist
Contact Sarah: firstname.lastname@example.org