Thursday, December 8, 2011

Teens Need a Plan B (but they can't get it over the counter)

Written by: Dr. Melisa Holmes, Co-founder of Girlology and Board Member of the SC Campaign

Emergency contraception (EC), marketed as the product Plan B, is largely misunderstood. As a parent, do you understand it? If not, you’re certainly not alone as evidenced yesterday by a surprising move by the Department of Health and Human Services Secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, who overrode the decision of the FDA to remove the age restriction on emergency contraception availability.  Using science and research to prove safety and effectiveness, the FDA concluded that Plan B One Step should be available over the counter to all ages and no longer require a prescription for those under 17. In political move that ignored the science, the decision was blocked.

As a parent of teens, and a physician to teens and their moms, I understand the concern about moving Plan B from behind the counter into the aisles so that anyone can pick it up along with condoms, pregnancy tests, cold medicine and band-aids. But even though it’s not readily available to all ages, all reproductive age girls and women should know about it and know how to access it, because knowing what to do in case of an emergency is always a good idea. And teens, in particular, need a Plan B (for themselves, or when they are helping a friend).

So, if you understand what EC is and how it works, you’ll realize that there’s little to worry about, but a lot to talk about – especially with your teen. Here’s the lowdown on Plan B.

What is it?
Plan B is a synthetic progesterone pill that is taken after unprotected sex to prevent pregnancy.  It is recommended after unprotected sex, misuse of usual contraception (i.e. forgotten pills, late patch change), and after rape.

If it’s taken within 72 hours of unprotected sex, it is 75% effective in preventing pregnancy, but the sooner it’s taken, the more effective it is – up to 95%.

Remember that the “standard” birth control pills contain estrogen and progesterone.  The “mini-pill” that is used for nursing mothers and women who can’t take estrogen contains only progesterone.  Interestingly, progesterone is also the hormone that is often prescribed to women with past miscarriages because progesterone provides important support to an early pregnancy. That means, if a girl or woman is already pregnant, Plan B will not affect, harm or abort the pregnancy.  This is NOT the abortion pill, RU486 or mifepristone (which blocks progesterone).

How does it work?
Basically, Plan B works in similar ways to “traditional” birth control pills, but faster.  How it works depends on when it is taken in relation to the menstrual cycle and unprotected sex.  It has been shown to prevent ovulation (the release of the egg from the ovary), which would obviously prevent fertilization.  It also has been shown to change the endometrium and make is less hospitable for implantation, therefore preventing the fertilized egg from “taking hold.” This is where the controversy comes in for some: if you have ethical problems with preventing a fertilized egg from settling into the endometrium when it arrives in the uterus, then all hormonal birth control should be off your list because that’s one of the ways hormonal birth control works (it also prevents ovulation most of the time, but the other mechanisms improve effectiveness).

Is it dangerous?
Nope.  In fact, it is safer than ibuprofen.  Although most drugs, including “traditional” birth control pills, have a list of contraindications (you hear them listed in pharmaceutical-speed-talk on commercials), Plan B has none. The contraindications and complications that accompany birth control pills are caused by the estrogen in them. Plan B is only progesterone. A progesterone overdose isn’t dangerous, but it might make you moody, nauseated, bloated and mess up your period.

Will teens abuse or overuse it?
Plan B is definitely not a mood enhancer (think premenstrual symptoms), so recreational use won’t be a problem.  But will teens change their behavior and have more unprotected sex if EC is readily available? The research says no. Specifically, research on EC and risk taking has shown that teens (and adult women) that have EC readily available do not increase their bouts of unprotected sex, but they are more likely to use EC appropriately compared with girls and women that have been told about EC but don’t have a prescription or dose on hand. Teens shouldn’t be expected to abuse Plan B anymore than they “abuse” condoms. And at $49.99 a dose (at my local pharmacy), it’s definitely not a first line choice for birth control.

If there’s Plan B, what happened to Plan A?
The naming of this branded emergency contraception formulation is brilliant because it acknowledges that this is a back up plan.  There should always be a “Plan A,” but when it falls through, it’s nice to have a Plan B, too.  This is where parents can step in and have the conversations that matter around this topic.
For teens, sexual abstinence is a preferred Plan A. There’s no question that the most reliable way to prevent pregnancy is to not have sex.  For high school students, this is what most of them are choosing these days (yay). But there are still plenty of teens that choose to have sex, and way too many teen pregnancies occurring in our country.  Plan B provides one more method that can help prevent the far-reaching impact of teen pregnancy.

Most physicians that work with teens and young adults liken the game plan for sexual health to a “belt and suspenders” approach. That means we recommend a hormonal method to prevent pregnancy and condoms to prevent infections.  So for teens, an acceptable Plan A would be to use condoms PLUS birth control pills, the patch, the vaginal ring, hormonal injections, implants or an IUD.  The best method for a teen is the method she can use consistently, correctly and confidently.

As parents, we have to acknowledge that there will be a day when our teen or young adult child chooses to have sex.  Before that happens, we should help her make a plan for staying safe and healthy.  Part of that is making sure she has a good plan in place, and that she thinks through a back up plan, an emergency plan of sorts. Having a back up plan is simply a smart strategy for life. Plan B emergency contraception is a back up plan that she may never need, but it is one more method she can put in her contraceptive tool kit.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

No Such Thing as THE Talk...Let's Talk 365!

When it comes to love, sex, and relationships, it is easy to say – in theory – that ongoing communication is important.  But, we all know that as children grow and become more and more curious, we can often be blind-sided by what our youth actually know – or think they know – about sex. 

This is why the talk is not simply a one-time presentation that we can schedule for a certain age or circumstance.  As uneasy as it could be, we have to continue using teachable moments and life lessons as spring boards for honest, open communication with young people…about all types of issues, but especially about sex.

This is also why, as professionals, we have to practice what we preach and make parent-child communication an ongoing priority in our awareness, education, and marketing activities.  October was Let’s Talk Month, but we should continue to emphasize this issue all year.  Accordingly, the SC Campaign is please to highlight our parent portal emphasis and public awareness campaign – Let’s Talk 365!

If there is no such thing as THE TALK, then I guess we should be careful not to depend too much on THE MONTH of October as the main platform for parent-child communication about sex, love, and relationships!  Please keep talking with young people and using our resources throughout the year.   If we want families to help in prevention efforts every month, then we must keep the issue prominent in our activities…365!

-Kimberly Wicker is Outreach and Development Specialist at the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Contact Kimberly at kwicker@teenpregnancysc.org.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

My Trip through the APHA Expo Hall: Where Theory Meets Practice

From October 29 – November 2, 2011, APHA’s held its 139th Annual Meeting & Exposition in Washington, DC. APHA stands for the American Public Health Association which, I believe, is the largest organization of public health researchers and professionals in our country. Over 13,000 people reportedly registered to attend APHA this year. One of those persons was myself, the Training Coordinator for the SC Campaign. While I grew up near Washington, D.C., and lived there as an intern in 2007, I was not prepared for the experience about to take place. I truly believe anyone who works in the field of Public Health should attend APHA at least once. You need to see with your own eyes, the scope and scale of this conference. Imagine how Dorothy felt when seeing OZ for the first time.

When I first arrived at the Washington, D.C. Convention Center (which takes up two full city blocks) – I followed the crowd and signs up to the third floor where I registered with a swipe of my conference issued ID card. That’s right, you don’t just get a name badge, they give you an ID Card (I’ll explain why in a minute). They handed me the conference program with the complete list of presentations, poster sessions, meetings, caucuses, meet n’ greets, and vendors was 418 pages long. “That’s not a program,” someone remarked to me, “it’s a phone book.” Good thing they gave us an APHA branded recyclable shoulder bag to carry the book and other items.

Then I took a walk through the Expo Hall. Now “hall” is a deceiving term, think more like airplane hanger, or better yet, picture a sci-fi movie with spaceships landing in a spaceport. That’s the size and scale of this room. APHA reported that over 650 businesses had spaces in the Expo Hall, but from where I stood, it looked like thousands of booths!
(pictured: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (aka CDC) station featuring national and global health projects)
Overwhelmed by the scale of the spaces, I quickly retreated to a couch in the internet lounge (offering free Wi-Fi) so that I could review my conference ‘phone book’ (I mean, program) and chart my course for the next few days. I planned out each day, where I would be every 1-2 hours. There were 30 minute breaks between sessions, which seems like a long time but with long walks across the building, lines for coffee/food, and the time it took to find the closest restroom, 30 minutes seemed barely enough time to get a good seat in the next session.

The scientific presentation sessions were just that - very scientific. The opportunity to hear from expert researchers in the field was eye-opening but often over my head since everyone who knows me, knows that research isn’t my cup of tea. I like to read the executive summaries at the beginning of each journal article, and I’m infamous for skimming through a 30 page report in too short a time. I’m sure others in the field of teen pregnancy prevention can relate, while others who love research and data are saying “shame on you, Ryan.”

So after hours of sessions – hearing lots of theory and tons of data points, regression models, p values, etc.... it was time for me to rerevisit the “spaceport” (I mean, Expo Hall). The Expo Hall was alive with activity. The loud speaker announced upcoming book signings and raffle drawings for those who had visited 24 premiere vendor books and gotten a stamp from each on their conference ‘passport’. There were booths from most of the major universities and schools of public health in the country. Students looking for advanced degrees or graduates looking for employment stopped from station to station. My favorite was a booth set-up like a living room and the admissions staff invited you to have a chat on their sofas.

The next row over, there was a mobile dentist office in a converted RV set-up complete with a LCD TV on the side showing educational videos about oral hygiene. One booth featured the APRIL aging software that helps you see what you will look like at 72 if you eat unhealthy foods, smoke, or tan without UV protection. Trust me, the smoking, tanning, fast food eating Ryan at 72 is NOT someone I hope to ever become… There was one vendor that asked us to take off our shoes and stuck special support cushions in there, before you knew it, they felt so good you almost gave them $38 to keep them in your shoes – but I resisted their sales ploy. If you saw a vendor who you liked and wanted more information from, you could give them your ID card and with one swipe, you were added to their mailing list. Goodbye age of business cards – hello digital age!

The thing about the Expo Hall that I liked the most was that the vendors weren’t just selling junk or giving away useless information. Every single booth was there for a reason! This was public health theory in its most practical form. Research had been conducted, theories had been developed and from those theories, products were create and now either being given away, raffled off, or sold. This Expo Hall was a place to find the latest demonstration models for those working in nutrition and healthy eating, software for those conducting qualitative interviews, services to help you translate documents or in real-time into over 160 languages, and the vendors that caught my attention most – companies or non-profits related to HIV and Teen Pregnancy prevention.

I filled my conference bag with condom samples and models of IUDs, brochures, and postcards. I spoke to national organizations and groups local to Washington, D.C. I visited the booths of ETR, Select Media, the CDC, and Health and Human Services (HHS). These practical tools that I gathered at the conference now rest on shelves in my office, spread across my desk, and distributed among my coworkers at the SC Campaign. From what I learned and gathered at APHA, we can now bring some of the theories home to South Carolina and some of the practice recommendations home to you at your agency or directly into the places where your kids will learn how to be better prepared for adulthood.

I’m glad I took a stroll through the ‘spaceport’ to collect stamps for my 'passport' with my ‘phone book’ under my arm. It was worth every minute I spent in the Expo Hall at APHA!

-Ryan Wilson, MEd., is a Training Coordinator for the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Contact Ryan at  rwilson@teenpregnancysc.org (803) 771-7700 ext. 126.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Revealing New Spin on Football

Orlando Fantasy. Las Vegas Sin. Philadelphia Passion. San Diego Seduction. What sounds like very expensive, potent cocktails are actually titles of teams competing in the Lingerie Football League. The LFL, started in 2009, claims to have “formally shattered” the ceiling on women playing tackle football. The ladies who play on these teams are powerful athletes without a doubt and deserve to compete at a professional level in a sport that has traditionally been for men only. However, if the only way for a woman to compete at that level requires her to run around a football field in her underwear, have we really accomplished anything to improve the status of women in our society?

I know I have a soapbox related to the portrayal of women in the media (hope to write another blog post soon about the Miss Representation documentary which aired recently on the Oprah Winfrey Network). If you talk to me long enough, you’ll quickly find out how much things like the LFL tick me off. But above and beyond the misguided concept that women are making strides for equality because they’re allowed to play football in their underwear, the LFL has decided to go one step farther. They are developing youth leagues.


Yes, you heard correctly. Here’s part of the press announcement (with thoughts by me in italics): “With the growing popularity around the LFL [by what shockingly appears to be mostly men who regularly comment on the LFL Facebook page with original quips about the athletes like “she can sack me anytime”], younger and younger girls are starting to dream of playing LFL football. [I doubt this is what Martin Luther King, Jr. had in mind.] In recent months and years, parents [clearly loving, caring parents who aspire for their daughters to grow up and accomplish great things] of young ladies routinely contact LFL league offices inquiring about everything ranging from what size football do you use to what form of training should I place my daughter into now to prepare her for LFL football [clearly in addition to scheduling her implant surgery, regular spray-tans, and salon appointments].”

There is so much about all of this that makes me angry, I’ve had trouble compiling my thoughts for this blog, but here’s an attempt:
  • If playing football is something women aspire to, then let’s look at what is SAFEST for them as much as we would for men. Playing tackle football with only helmets and shoulder pads doesnot seem safe – much less comfortable. Could you imagine men playing in something similar?
Football players - Female and Male wardrobe differences
  • If we want for people to truly see and appreciate the athleticism of women on the football field, could we allow them to be dressed in such a way as to emphasis their talent rather than their cup-size?
  • In a recent survey conducted by Essence Magazine with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 72% of young people surveyed said that the media portrayed black girls’ sex appeal as their most important quality and 39% of females who had had sex said they wished someone had told them they had more to offer someone than just sex. Is it any wonder our young people feel this way when organizations like the Lingerie Football League are airing games on MTV2 – a channel viewed predominantly by teens? Is it possible to feature beautiful, strong, smart black women with CLOTHES ON???
 
My final thought has caused me the most trouble since discovering the LFL and the idea of a youth league to ultimately recruit new players – even though the league founder and commissioner guarantees that “we would never put 13 year olds in lingerie and have them play in our league”  (many thanks to ESPNW for clarifying that for us!).  What do we DO about things like this? What do we DO when we see women continuously being portrayed as sex objects or little girls being made up to look like grown women or female politicians being asked more about their clothing choices than their thoughts on foreign policy? What do we DO when we see girls flipping through magazines or channels and looking with some sense of inadequacy at the made-up, touched up images they feel constantly forced to compare themselves to?

I’ve decided to finally DO something. I’m starting with conversations – with adult women I look up to and with young women I admire and hope to influence in positive ways. I hope to keep you informed on how those conversations go - whether or not talking about what we see, struggle with, and get angry about can help to ultimately bring about change. And in the meantime, I’ll stick to watching NCAA football and will skip the LFL games. How about you?

- Dana Becker, M.Ed, is the Spartanburg Community Specialist for the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Contact Dana at dbecker@teenpregnancysc.org.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Let's Talk About Candy...and Love, Sex and Relationships!

As I sit here at my desk on October 31st I’m reminded of a few things. First, Syracuse basketball season is right around the corner! In fact, it may be that fact that prompted me to rifle through my closet and don this get up for work today.

But, on to more important reminders… those about the safety of our children tonight, on this night of ghouls and goblins and tainted Halloween candy. To be clear I want you to advocate for the safety of your child tonight – stay only in well lit areas, get back in the house before dark, don’t wear dark costumes and walk in traffic, and for heaven’s sake don’t take candy from strangers! My friends who are parents will undoubtedly be having these and other conversations tonight. I can assure you that I will be if I’m ever so fortunate as to be a parent someday.

Yes, yes emergency rooms will be abuzz scanning packs of skittles and mini-snickers for needles, broken glass and other dangers. But, did you know that over the past 50 years or so there has been exactly one (ONE) reported case of candy tampering on Halloween night – and that was actually a premeditated act of a trick-or-treater's father. Here’s a 2009 story from time.com with some more information to the same effect in case you don’t believe me.

So maybe tonight (and every night) we should focus on the real dangers facing our young people… maybe it’s time to recognize that the chance they have sex as a middle school student (almost 1-in-5) or the chance that they have sex before they graduate from high school (about 7-in-10) or the chance that they get pregnant before turning 20 (nearly 4-in-10) ALL FAR EXCEED THE CHANCE (about 1-in-1,000,000,000,000) THAT THEY ARE POISONED BY CANDY on Halloween night!

Love, sex, and relationships… now there are some important topics we need to be conversing about with our children, not running from like we’re being chased by a Halloween ghost!

By Forrest L. Alton, CEO, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Consider Gender in Addressing Teen Pregnancy

Healthy Teen Network's 32nd annual conference
Earlier this month I attended Healthy Teen Network’s 32nd Annual Conference. The week was filled with thought provoking conversations surrounding gender. During the opening session, Keynote Speaker Elizabeth Schroeder, had us do a simple activity. She asked us to write down five roles we play. Next, she asked us to make note of how many had something to do with gender. That question set the tone for the conference. Over the next few days I attended session after session where presenters asked us to think of how much we ignore and focus on gender simultaneously.

The NRN Spartanburg Community Action Group chose male involvement as one of the determinates to target as part of the CDC Project. Therefore, I chose to attend breakout sessions specifically about that population. My favorite session was titled, "No Resources Left Untouched: Engaging Young Males and Men in the Effort to Build Healthy Families and Communities." 

As a music lover, getting tips on using music to encourage young men to talk about what being a man and becoming a father means to them was invaluable. There was one sentence in the conference booklet that I think spoke volumes to this subject. It read, “By not serving the needs of young men, programs can be complicit in reinforcing the ideal that young men are the problem and not part of the solution to preventing teen pregnancy.” 

One of the other breakout sessions I attended was "Engaging Young Male Athletes and Coaches to Prevent Sexual Violence." The presenters gave us an overview of a violence prevention program entitled “Coaching Boys into Men.” We had a discussion about how commonly used phrases such as “You are throwing like a girl. You are running like a sissy.” have an effect on adolescent male attitude towards the opposite sex. If you’d like to download the Coaching Boys into Men Coaches Kit visit www.coachescorner.org. Overall I was pleased with my first HTN conference and look forward to next year in Minneapolis, MN.

- Meredith M. Talford, MPH, CHES, is the Upstate Training and Technical Assistance Specialist. E-mail Meredith at mtalford@teenpregnancysc.org.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

There is a Lot to Talk About this Season

Image by Marufish/FlickrThe weather is getting crisp, flu shots are being pedaled and pumpkin spice lattes are back in our famously hot state! Dig a little deeper, past the casual conversation about the weather and you'll see that there's quite a bit to talk about in South Carolina. With poverty data spilling onto the market, the sticky numbers aren’t exclusive to the weather in South Carolina anymore. Let's not only start the conversation about our less-than-impressive ratings, but let's make a plan to move forward and bring improvement to our state. After all, if we don’t help our state as a whole, what does that say about us as individuals?

Unemployment rates are a scary thing to discuss, but when South Carolina inched closer to having the highest level of unemployment rates in the nation, I think we all held our breath. As a student graduating college at the tail end of the Great Recession, I experienced a very selfish fear of not being able to find steady employment. I knew the impact of South Carolina's soaring unemployment numbers on myself, but I hadn't thought about the impact on our state's children and their future. Now that I’m working in Research and Evaluation, the picture is clear. Our state’s children, who hold our state’s future, are greatly impacted by these numbers. The year I graduated (2010), we came in second in the nation with the highest percentage (6.6%) of children with all resident parents unemployed.

As unemployment rates soared, the snowball of homelessness, food insecurity, and foreclosure gained momentum. In 2009, nearly one in four (24%) children in South Carolina were living in a household with an income below the Federal Poverty level--that's $22,050 for a family of four. Without a doubt, many of these children are also part of the one in four children that will go to bed hungry tonight. Close to half (43%) of US households report they are struggling to afford stable housing. During the 2009-2010 school year, 10,820 South Carolina students experienced homelessness first-hand; 14.5% of those students did not have a sheltered nighttime residence. Not only are the parents and guardians of children in South Carolina faced with a very discouraging job market where the unemployment rate nearly doubled during the Recession, they must also worry about the impact of these factors on their dependents. It's time that we take action to help ourselves and our state.

With Thanksgiving approaching, I encourage everyone to take time to reflect on people and things that you are grateful to have in your life. I also encourage you to get involved and give back to your community. As the holidays approach, we'll certainly receive more than we need of something. Take that something to a neighbor or pack a bag of non-perishables for Harvest Hope Food Bank. Hug your family members and tell them how much they mean to you while you can. Talk to your children (or the children in your family) not only about how much you love them, but about how important it is for them to succeed. Talk about values and create an open line of communication. A caring adult can create revolutionary change in a young person. 

- Jordan Slice is a Research and Evaluation Assistant at the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Contact Jordan at jslice@teenpregnancysc.org.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Remembering What is Important

We have just passed a date that we wish that we never had to remember. September 11 really should be a date in which we are looking forward to a birthday, a football weekend, the first hint of fall. Instead, for everyone who has memories of 2001 we know where we were. Like the attack on Pearl Harbor, the assassination of John Kennedy, we remember where we were when we learned of the tragic attacks on the World Trade Towers, the Pentagon, the crash in Pennsylvania

All across our country this month there have been remembrances of all those who died, but even more, all those who have died in the ensuing wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. On Sept. 11, our sanctuary walls were filled with the names of so many who have been lost—nearly 10,000 names.
It is important and necessary that we remember that date. But if we only remember, we have lost an important opportunity to ask ourselves, and our country what is really important. How much are we willing to change our lives, our habits in order to feel safe? How many of our liberties and freedoms are we willing to forfeit in order to thwart another attack? What is important about being America?
We need those times when we have those soul-searching conversations with ourselves, with our country. What is really important? 

In recent weeks we have been hit with so many numbers. We have learned that over 15% of all Americans are living in poverty, 1 in 6 children. That means that a family of four has an income of less than $22,350. In South Carolina, according to the 2011 Kids Count Data Book, over 260,000 children, one of every four, are poor. We now rank 45th in the nation for child well being.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/morku/5123548447/The connection between poverty, teen pregnancy, low educational attainment, prison population is well known. We see those numbers all the time. I wonder what it would be like if we saw all their names listed on a church wall—all those lives effected by poverty, pregnancy, dropout, incarceration. Is there a wall big enough?
In the face of such mind numbing numbers are we willing to step back and ask ourselves, our state, what is really important? What are we willing to do to make sure another generation doesn’t fall victim. Following 9/11, we were willing to take off our shoes when we fly, to give up our big toothpaste, to fund two wars, to give away rights in order to be safe.

What are we willing to do to safeguard our children?

Are we willing to walk across the room and cut off TV programs that are inappropriate? Are we willing to fund proven effective programs that help our children make good decisions about sexuality? Are we willing to have conversations that might be uncomfortable, but so very necessary?
What is really important?

It is a question we need to ask—not only this year, but every year. Our children depend on it.

- Don Flowers, Former Board Chair and Pastor of Providence Baptist Church. Contact Don at don@providencecharleston.org.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Football and Comprehensive Sex Ed: It isn't Just About the Players on the Field

Just like most South Carolinians, I’m enjoying the late summer/ early fall: the day doesn’t greet me with an oppressive blanket of heat and humidity, roadside stands are cornucopias of fresh local fruits and vegetables, and “football” is the word on everyone’s lips. My daily commute takes me past two high schools, and before school started back up I would drive past morning practice.

Five mornings a week, I was reminded of our closing keynote speaker at Summer Institute, Dr. Steve Perry. Part of his speech compared comprehensive health education in schools to youth football. He challenged everyone in the room with this question: If we can get a young man to be convinced that, in August’s baking heat, strapping on over a dozen pounds of additional weight and running around outside to the point of exhaustion is good for him, why can’t we do the same thing with reproductive health? What are we doing as a state, as an organization, as educators and as individuals to make sexually responsible behaviors as attractive as playing football?

This has been my rallying cry since Summer Institute. If someone can convince middle schoolers and high schoolers that waking up early in the summer, putting on umpteen layers of additional clothing, running around, throwing a ball, tackling teammates and getting the wind knocked out of them is a good thing and worth repeating if only for the chance to get to play on a few Friday nights in the fall, then I can convince the same middle schoolers and high schoolers that delaying sex until they are ready and using protection when they make a fully informed choice to have sex is an equally good idea. I can do this! I can change the world!

Reality, of course, is much more nuanced. The number of students who play football is much smaller than the number of students affected by comprehensive health education. However, just because a student doesn’t play football doesn’t mean that he or she can’t support their team and in some way encourage the culture that puts football on a pedestal. As Oprah would say, this was my “a-ha” moment.

Football culture (and comprehensive health education) isn’t just about the players on the field. It’s the coaches who are motivating the players to do one more lap. It’s the parents who wake their sons up at 6 a.m. on those August mornings. It’s the schools who invest in football uniforms, stadiums, and coaching staff. It’s the fans in the stands. It’s the local businesses who want to put their logos on programs. It’s the local media who will put a reporter on the sidelines. It’s the slim chance that playing football well in high school may lead to playing football in college and the even slimmer chance that playing football in college may lead to playing football professionally.

So it is with comprehensive, evidence based health education. While the immediate focus may be on two dozen middle or high schoolers in a classroom, we need to focus on the culture that determines what happens in that classroom. It’s the teachers who want to deliver accurate information. It’s the school administrators who budget for trainings and supplies for those teachers. It’s the Comprehensive Health Education Committees comprised of members voting to institute evidence based curriculums. It’s parents who are grateful when their child brings home homework with the questions “When did you fall in love? What was it like when you were dating in high school?”. It’s a culture that doesn’t glorify or normalize teen pregnancy. It’s the very large chance that not getting pregnant in high school or college will lead to a better future.

- Stewart Davis, MPH, is a Training and Technical Assistance Associate at the SC Campaign. Contact Stewart at sdavis@teenpregnancysc.org.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Pharmacy Clinics Could be Useful Tool for Young People

I'm sitting in a CVS waiting for the nurse at the Minute Clinic to call me back. As I sauntered towards the back of the store where the clinic office is, I realized that no one could tell what I came into the store for. I could be here for toothpaste, lipstick, gum, or some Carolina swag for my car to celebrate the kick-off to college football (which I may have to pick up before I leave). But I'm here for a medical reason.
To sign in at the Minute Clinic, I don't have to talk to anyone. I answer a few questions on a computer screen, agree to complete a survey via e-mail following my visit (our Evaluation Department is rubbing off on me!), and the screen tells me how long I may have to wait before the nurse calls for me. Fortunately, it’s less than 20 minutes. But I’m free to browse the store while I wait anyway. Or work on this blog entry on the trusty Blackberry.

I've been to this clinic before - the joy of annually acquiring bronchitis or tonsilitis or some other cold and flu type illness. I come here because I can get in and out quickly, don't have to wait for ages in a packed waiting room where I am convinced I will contract five other illnesses before the nurse calls me, I meet with a very personable APRN who has the time to really sit and talk to me, and I can pick up any prescription or meds I need before I leave the store. It’s a definite one-stop shop. My entire visit today took less than an hour – including wait time, time with the nurse, and waiting for the prescription. The visit was also relatively inexpensive and can be filed with insurance.

Naturally, I asked the nurse about incorporating family planning services into the Minute Clinic. Young people can enter CVS without anyone knowing they’re going in to get on birth control. Services are confidential. Wait time is minimal. Interaction with only the nurse makes it easier to guarantee teen-friendliness from staff.

What an ideal place for a female to go get her Depo-Provera shot or switch methods if she’s having trouble! I was thrilled to hear that CVS and the Minute Clinics are considering expanding services to do just that. Now we just need to show them our support so they’ll decide to do more than consider it, and we’ll have a whole new way for young people to access these much-needed services.

In the meantime, I encourage you to visit a CVS with a Minute Clinic to pick up some toothpaste, gum, or USC swag. And just imagine a whole new world opening up there for our youth!

- Dana Becker, M.Ed., is the Spartanburg Community Specialist for the SC Campaign. Contact Dana at  dbecker@teenpregnancysc.org.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Beyonce Pregnancy Commentary Missed the Mark

A response Tony Anderson’s (BET.com) commentary on Beyonce’s pregnancy, 'Will BeyoncĂ©’s Pregnancy Cause a Spike in Black Teen Pregnancy?"

As provocative and engaging as I know the author of this commentary is trying to be, I still wish the title reflected the possibility, even if slight, that this could be the foundation for a POSITIVE response among black youth.  Even if young black girls want to emulate Beyonce and fail to see the details of her very strong ability to parent, we as mentors, parents, teachers, and guardians CAN use this as a TEACHABLE MOMENT instead of worrying that young black girls are going to automatically start pushing out babies because of Beyonce! 

We know that there are high pregnancy rates in the U.S. and among girls of color, so why start hyperventilating over what else COULD happen?   Let's try to be proactive and point out the encouraging details of Beyonce’s life circumstances to our youth BEFORE they start making bad decisions. 
The author, who is a black male, may have intended only to spark discussion and reflection, but instead I think the author mistakenly allows his need for hype to overshadow just how fragile the dynamics of race, class, gender, and social status can be.  Even though the article content is somewhat valid and nuanced, the headline’s tired and weak correlation between Beyonce and pregnancy rates among an entire race of young women is completely ridiculous and insensitive (plus, the last time I checked, many young women of all backgrounds look up to Beyonce!).

We all too often complain about the negative images coming out of music and movies, yet when a young entertainer avoids the pitfalls of early stardom, what do we do?  Yes, we allow her name to be associated (even if not purposefully) with one of the biggest societal challenges in the country! 

We are going to have to be more careful, especially as professionals, not to allow commentators like this to trivialize such an important issue.  We know so many young women of all races who struggle everyday to handle the consequences of unplanned pregnancy.  We see parents of teens literally overwhelmed by the pressures of parenting in a world where information moves at lightning speed. 
We work with social workers, prevention specialists, and counselors who KNOW what environmental factors surround unplanned pregnancy.  This list of factors like poverty, access to health care, parental involvement, low self-esteem, abuse, among other determinants, are the issues that these professionals grapple with daily, NOT Beyonce’s pregnancy announcement. 

Of course, I would never discount the validity of any entertainer’s influence on impressionable young people.  Media influence and peer pressure are very real issues for young people.  BUT anytime someone insinuates that one particular group of girls would automatically have sex just because a grown up entertainer decided to have a baby with her husband, we need to ask if the same “brainstorm” would be put out there about other girls or even about young men.

-Kimberly Wicker, MSW, is the Outreach and Development Specialist for the SC Campaign. Contact Kim at kwicker@teenpregnancysc.org.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Did ya Feel That?

This week the East Coast experienced a rare occurrence…yes, the infamous EARTHQUAKE!  Local and national broadcasters up and down the coast as well as parts of the Mid-West were on it, reporting every detail and displaying absolute amazement at how far-reaching the effects of this natural event were.  The public reaction to the earthquake’s even slight impact across such a wide area made me think about our work in prevention, especially teen pregnancy prevention. 

Not that I would ever equate the danger of a possible natural disaster to a teen pregnancy.  However, the public’s shock regarding impact IS something that seems curiously similar!  On several occasions, as I do outreach across the state, I have heard adults of all backgrounds and titles suggest that teen pregnancy is only relevant for some of us… those who work with high schools or are parents of teens, etc.  I often hear phrases like:

·         Whew!  I am glad I have passed that stage (a parent of a young adult); I’m not there yet (a parent of a young child) or I don’t have to worry about that because I have boys!

Yes in 2011, with all of the proven social implications of unintended pregnancy, HIV, and STDs, we still have some  neighbors and friends who think they are exempt from the ripple effects of teen pregnancy and disease (much like we in South Carolina and other parts of the US think we are exempt from earthquakes!).  Of course there are many parents, teachers, and health care professionals who ARE well aware of the connections between teen pregnancy and our economic, social, and public health plight in this country. 

We just need to continue to highlight those connections and to speak up when we hear anyone suggest that we don't have to be overly concerned about the health and well-being of young people…ALL YOUNG PEOPLE!  Click here to look at our Making the Connection series

-Kimberly Wicker, MSW, is the Outreach and Development Specialist for the SC Campaign. Contact Kim at kwicker@teenpregnancysc.org.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Some "Earth-Shaking" News -- Introducing @SCCampaign on Twitter!

Today, we are expanding our communication tool box and launching @SCCampaign on Twitter, so that we can continue to make online connections with others in the field, and also to share our news about teen pregnancy prevention work, research and events.

As a self-proclaimed social media junkie, one of the reasons I'm excited about this is that I love to know about things in real time. Just yesterday, Twitter helped me figure out why my cubicle was wobbling. After working in the little graduate assistant closet - ahem, office - with three other people for the last year, I’m used to a variety of ways we can annoy one another in such close quarters.

I peeked around the partition to see what my officemate was doing to cause the mini-disturbance, only to realize it wasn't her moving our desks. She had been wondering the same thing about me!  Perplexed, I tweeted that I thought our office building was shaking. Seconds later, I saw messages from friends up and down the East Coast who had experienced the same thing.

As my less social media-addicted coworkers started coming out into the hall to figure out what was happening, I already knew the shaking we felt was probably related to the earthquake reported by my friends who lived states away. And, OK, I’ll admit that updating your status online during a probable natural disaster isn’t the safest way to take action, but in this scenario it helped the news spread literally in an instant.

As I saw yesterday, staying connected not only gives you bragging rights about being the first to know what’s happening, but it also makes it easier to see at a glance what is going on collectively. So, follow @SCCampaign on Twitter (and Facebook!) to stay up-to-date!

- Elizabeth Benfield is a graduate assistant from the USC Arnold School of Public Health. She also tweets for CarolinaTeenHealth.com at @TeenHealthSC. E-mail her at ebenfield@teenpregnancysc.org.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Enough of the "We Can't do this in South Carolina" Talk

I’ll be honest, it’s one of my pet peeves – this talk about what we can and can’t do simply because of the limits of geography.  I moved to South Carolina fifteen years ago which comes close to making me a “local”, but I fully understand that even another fifteen years won’t make me a “native.”  Nonetheless, I have dedicated a considerable amount of that time doing things that (in my opinion) are making the state better.  I care about South Carolina, care about its citizens and have an especially large place in my heart for its young people and others who are presumably without a voice in decision making.

One of my many professional goals is to ensure that all young people in South Carolina are receiving research proven, age-appropriate sexuality education in school.  It’s a seemingly never-ending battle met with many iterations of “we can’t do that here!”  To be fair, some communities and school districts are well on their way to this level of instruction and are doing the best they can with what they have; however, saying there is widespread implementation of effective sexuality education in South Carolina would be a stretch.

Given this interest, I pay attention when I see that other states or locales have instituted sexuality education policies like this story that broke out of New York City this week.  Let the chorus rain… “yeah but, that’s New York City”… and, of course the “but we can’t do that here.”  Well, here’s the dirty little secret hidden in the article: “a survey… in 2009 found that 81 percent of city voters thought that sex education should be taught in public schools.”  And, the article implies that was enough to overcome opposition from a variety of groups.

Guess what?  In South Carolina a survey conducted in 1997, replicated in 2004 and replicated again in 2007 indicated that 81% of South Carolina registered voters support sex education being taught in South Carolina public schools that emphasizes abstinence but also includes information on contraception.”  Want more? Community level surveys conducted in Spartanburg County (87% support) and Horry County (87%) in 2011 indicate that support may actually be increasing!

The question is no longer “can we do that here” rather, we must begin to ask ourselves “do we have the will, drive and commitment to GET IT DONE here!”  We are on our way, so one final question - who’s with us?

By: Forrest Alton, CEO, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pharmacies CAN Play a Role in Teen Pregnancy Prevention

I came across an article today that I think is important for us all to review - especially those who serve as pharmacists or know someone who does.  A brief excerpt from the article will give you a glimpse into its content.

"Pharmacies are safe and should appeal that way to all, not just to the elderly. Our local pharmacies can benefit our entire community when displaying teen friendliness from staff, by answering questions about pregnancy-prevention products without judgment, shorter waiting times and additional resources that customers will be happy to use. If these places can sustain a healthy environment (where the pressure of stress isn't on our backs as soon as we begin to walk in). Soon, these environments can begin to establish trust with our youth. Teens will remember this trust and have confidence knowing they can get help from trustworthy professionals and hopefully will turn away from their old shy ways or pride that has held them back from asking for help." 

Wow, this author speaks the truth, and at the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy we have the data to back it up.  A little over a year ago we conducted a Secret Shopper Campaign to assess a teen's experience purchasing condoms.  The information we gathered was telling.  Not only should pharmacists be playing a role, but so should gas station attendants, cashiers at Wal-Mart, employees at grocery stores, and many more. Review our outcomes and let us know what you think.

By: Cayci Banks, Director of Communications, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Mission 2011

As a young, public health activist and someone who has witnessed what medical debt can do to a family, I dream of a day when access to healthcare in America becomes a right rather than a privilege. On May 25, Palmetto Health invited representatives from community organizations in the Midlands to their Auditorium to witness the laying of the foundation for what will surely be a historic event. After welcoming the wide-eyed, eager group, Vince Ford, Senior Vice President for Community Services, pressed play on a video that warmed my soul and rebuilt my hope that equality in healthcare is on its way.

My eyes filled with tears when I heard Linda say “I feel like a throwaway” as she stood with her walker in line to receive medical care at SC Mission 2010 held in Greenville last year. Watching the testimonies from patients at Mission 2010 put a face on the uninsured and underserved in our community. These people are our neighbors, our family, and our friends who desperately need our help.

On August 5 and 6, medical, dental and vision care will be provided free of charge to any and all Midlands adults who are without access to affordable care. Whether you’re uninsured, underinsured, or just plain underserved - nurses, doctors, optometrists, hygienists and dentists will be on site to provide care. No identification or proof of a lack of insurance is required. The event will begin bright and early each morning at 6:00am and end at 10:00pm on Friday and 4:00pm on Saturday. Dental services will be provided for 34 hours straight starting Friday at 6:00am.

Please volunteer to assist with the SC Mission 2011 and witness our community mobilizing to bring healthcare to all residents.  Need more of a reason to volunteer?  Then listen to my colleague Meredith Talford who participated in Mission 2010.
Whenever the topic of health care comes up I hold my breath because you never know what is going be said. We get into heated arguments about what is best for the future of our country. I watch. I listen. I think. I think about the future, but I also think about the present. I think of people who are in pain now. Last year I volunteered with Mission 2010 in Greenville. I met a lady who left work early, packed a cooler and slept outside overnight hoping to have an infected tooth removed. It had been like that for months, but she didn’t have the resources to get treated. Afterwards, she kept mumbling, “Thank ya’ll for doing this.” All I did was distribute tickets, but it reminded me that every small part contributes to the greater good. So as I patiently wait for the health care of the future, I’ll follow the advice of Mother Teresa and “Not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.”
Planning to come as a patient? Here are some tips:
• Wear cool clothing and sunscreen and bring a personal, hand-held fan if possible (much of the line to services will be outdoors and we know South Carolina heat in August can be unforgiving!).
• Wear comfortable shoes, bring snacks and a portable chair (the wait has the potential to be several hours).

By: Jordan Slice, Research and Evaluation Assistant at the SC Campaign

Friday, July 8, 2011

Talk About Giving

In today's post I would like to introduce you to an awesome initiative that I came across this week - Talk About Giving!  This program, developed by Central Carolina Community Foundation, encourages families to have conversations about the importance of philanthropy.  Just like the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy encourages parents to have open, honest conversations with young people about love, sex and relationships, Talk About Giving also knows the importance of parent-child communication.

As part of this commitment, they are hosting the TAG Summer Grant Giveaway and will be donating $2,000 to a charity in the Midlands who has the most support.  I would love to see the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy win this competition but in order to do so, we need your help!  Please follow this link - www.facebook.com/TalkAboutGiving, click on Summer Grant Giveaway, click enter and then nominate the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.  It's that simple and will take two minutes at most.  Involve your child in this process to show them your family values philanthropy and organizations working to prevent teen pregnancy.  This could be a great conversation starter for "the talk."

We would appreciate your support!  Spread this message far and wide!

By: Cayci Banks, Director of Communications, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Thursday, June 23, 2011

I am the Most Important Person in my Future

Please repeat after me: “I am the most important person in my future.” This is how Brian White (@actorbrianwhite) opened his keynote presentation at Summer Institute 2011 last week in Myrtle Beach. Many of us knew Brian White as an actor in movies like Stomp the Yard and I Can Do Bad All by Myself or from the more recent TV show Men of a Certain Age. Fewer knew him as a licensed stock broker, former National Football League AND National Lacrosse League player, and graduate of an Ivy League college. These are tremendous accomplishments that we might expect from someone who, like Brian, came from a two-parent family, had 5 sisters to encourage him, and had lots of opportunities to succeed.

Then let’s take a look at Dr. Steve Perry (@DrStevePerry) – our closing keynote at Summer Institute. Dr. Perry was born to a teen mom, grew up having very little relationship with his father, lived in poverty, and matched up with many of the risk factors that indicate a child who will grow up to be uneducated, incarcerated, and a teen parent himself. But Dr. Perry did not become another statistic. In fact, he completed his education, ran a homeless shelter, became a candidate for state representative, and authored four books – before age 26. Today, he works as a CNN Education Contributor and is the principal and co-founder of Capital Preparatory Magnet School in one of Connecticut’s lowest performing districts – working daily to change the lives of the young people he serves.

What do these men have in common? I believe they would both agree that they were given the tools they needed to withstand life's challenges – even if those lessons came in the midst of difficult times. Because while Dr. Perry didn’t have the “traditional” support system that Brian White had, he had a strong mother who made sure he had teachers, coaches, and mentors who would help him build a foundation for his life and give him the tools he needed to make it.

To help make sure all young people have those tools, Brian White has launched Black Carpenter, a young person’s guide to essential tools for life
“The chapters in Black Carpenter are divided into tools, metaphors for life’s most important values, supported by personal anecdotes. Reading a chapter is opening the tool box of my life story. Lift out a hammer and see how choice affected me, mistakes made and lessons learned. Lift out a utility knife and read how overcoming fear taught me how to dance, ballet no less, which prepared me for a lead role in Stomp the Yard. Lift out a tape measure and meet the mentors in my life who pushed me to graduate an honor roll student from public high school and attend an Ivy League college. Most importantly, lift out any tool in these ensuing chapters and learn how to become your own Black Carpenter. “ - Brian White

Brian White and Dr. Perry understand that as we seek to address teen pregnancy, young people need education from the waist up as well as from the waist down. We know young people need education on abstinence, refusal skills, negotiation skills, contraceptive methods, but what other tools are we equipping our young people with? Are we giving them a firm foundation that will help them to handle whatever life throws at them? Are we pushing them to excel in life or just to avoid having a baby? Are we reaching both their heads and their hearts? Let’s help our young people say with certainty “I am the most important person in my future.” I think they’re worth it. Don’t you?

By: Dana Becker, Technical Assistance Specialist with the SC Campaign

Monday, May 2, 2011

On the Road Again

It's May and in case you didn’t know, that means A LOT of work for the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy as May is nationally recognized as Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.

To celebrate this, staff of the SC Campaign will travel the state as part of our 3rd Annual Road Show from May 3 – May 20 in an effort to inform South Carolinians about the issue of teen pregnancy and how they can get involved in prevention efforts. We hope to see you when we come to a town near you. As our schedule stands right now, we will visit the following counties:
1. Marlboro
2. Richland
3. Horry
4. Florence
5. Berkeley
6. Barnwell
7. Spartanburg
8. Newberry
9. Anderson
10. Pickens
11. Greenville
12. Kershaw
13. Chesterfield
14. Charleston
15. Beaufort
16. Hampton
17. Colleton

Our list of 55+ events include 17 media appearances, 7 youth events, 5 fundraisers, 2-3 volunteer opportunities, 3 legislative meetings, 6 Parent/Child Communication workshops, and many other public awareness opportunities including community forums in both Spartanburg and Horry counties. Stay tuned to all of our travels via our website, www.teenpregnancysc.org (events will posted on our online calendar) and through our Facebook Page – facebook.com/sccampaign.

Special thanks to SC Department of Health and Environmental Control and First Citizens Banks for making the Road Show possible.

by: Cayci Banks, Director of Communications, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
contact Cayci: cbanks@teenpregnancysc.org

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lessons Learned from Listening to Teens

Before coming to the SC Campaign as a graduate assistant in the fall, most of my interaction with teenagers was limited to family friends or grocery store cashiers. Even as a 25-year-old, my general reaction to teens in the media was “I vaguely remember this, but… I don’t really get it.”


As the Teen Expressions coordinator, I had a unique opportunity to hear directly from teens. But, to be honest, the prospect of delving into the minds of teens was a little scary at first. What if the media was right? What if teens were getting sex ed from music videos and values from 'Jersey Shore'? But of course, S.C. teens proved that they are more than what you see in the media.
The contest gives teens a place to share their perspective from their hearts and minds,  not just from academic research or "trend" news pieces. We get unfiltered opinions from teens on topics like sex, teen pregnancy and relationships. Some of them were silly. Some of them were serious. Many of them were thoughtful, and all of them helped add to my understanding about how teens think.
Some of what the teens shared might not surprised you:
  • They take love and relationships very seriously. Even though your gut reaction might be to roll your eyes when 14-year-olds use words like “forever” when describing their girlfriends or boyfriends, it is important to understand that it is their reality.
  • Individuality was a dominant theme, and teens want you to know that they are different.  From teen parents to teens who are abstinent, there were lots of entries with the clear message of individuality.  We have to stop expecting all teens to be influenced and motivated by the same messages, because they want to be taken seriously and judged based on their personal decisions and beliefs – not the ones in the media.
Some things that I was surprised to find out:
  • They aren’t fooled by society’s messages of excess and apathy. Many of the entries were about waiting to have sex, or protecting themselves to prevent the unintended consequences of sex. They don’t want to have babies because it is “trendy,” or to get on TV.  
  • Forget the stereotype of the unmotivated teenager. They might express themselves differently, or have different priorities, but they care. 
  • A lot of the entries about teen pregnancy showed that teens aren’t tuning adults out. Many of the teens who entered represent youth organizations and health classes, and their viewpoints reflect teens who are getting the messages we as health educators are desperate for them to hear.  
When you talk to teens, they are listening.  We need to be doing the same. Teen Expressions offers some good lessons about how to keep these conversations going.
  • Welcome their opinions and perspectives, even if you don't understand them at first.
  • Start by asking open-ended questions about how they feel and how they interpret the messages targeted to them. 
  • Some teens may be able to express their thoughts and fears better through art or poetry, so don’t limit your conversations to formal sit-downs. 
  • Encourage examination and critical thinking rather than just memorizing rules and guidelines. 
In related news, we need your help picking our Teen Expressions Grand Prize winner! Vist the voting page at CarolinaTeenHealth.org and vote once per day until April 19. The winner will be announced May 10 at our reception honoring all published entrants. 

- Elizabeth Benfield is a graduate assistant at the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregancy and a MPH student at the University of South Carolina.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

What $262k Can Buy You

A simple email from my husband read "You need her job."  I personally like my job, but it peaked my interest when I saw Bristol Palin’s name, who I know is an advocate for abstinence education and the prevention of teen pregnancy.
The headline blew me away, “Bristol Palin earns $262K for teen pregnancy work”. After I picked myself up off the floor, I had three immediate reactions:
  1. No way this can be true - my husband has sent me a tabloid link, but then I realized it was from the Associated Press!
  2. Who is spending this much money on an intervention that is not evidence based and does not make a dent in teen sexual behavior? No offense, she seems like a lovely girl but come on. Put some of this funding towards local organizations on the ground who are effectively working with teens and getting outcomes. 7,879 people commented on this article, most were outraged. My favorite comment , “Bristol Palin giving advice on timing of pregnancies is like Bernie Madoff recommending investment strategies”.  2,000 people liked that comment, including me. There are no resources to waste in this field so for those investing in celebrity (I use this term loosely) speakers to prevent teen pregnancy, they may want to rethink their investment strategy.
  3. Anger! In South Carolina, several of our local youth development organizations’ entire operational budgets do not get close to $262K and they do amazing work, and most importantly, are grounded in science. In the end, I don’t want to knock Bristol, she has made her experience into a career and is promoting a positive message which is great.
The group funding Bristol had this to say as a comment on their webpage: “We know that Ms. Palin's work has had a positive effect on teens. In a recent independent national survey of 1,000 teens that compared a Bristol Palin PSA with those of another national teen pregnancy organization that use non-famous teens, more than twice as many teens (57% vs. 27%) said Bristol's PSA "got my attention", three times as many (41% vs. 11%) said it was "powerful", and more than twice as many (38% vs. 16%) said it was "memorable".” 

Wow, “got my attention”, “powerful” and “memorable” – is that worth a $262K investment? They should give me a call for $262K. I can give them “I did not have sex.”, “Used a condom”, “Went to clinic” and “Increased my knowledge about abstinence and safe sex”. Those are outcomes worth a substantial investment.

Candies, love your shoes and your posters but as foundations and agencies, we should be ethically obligated to invest in strategies that have data to demonstrate effectiveness AND positively impact young people.

By: Polly Edwards Padgett, Director of Local Action for the SC Campaign

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Teens Get Real: Teen Expressions 2011

Our 2011 Teen Expressions contest “What is Your Reality?” closed a few weeks ago, and we’re so excited to announce we received nearly 150 entries! This is my second semester as a graduate assistant at the SC Campaign, and although I’ve read previous Teen Expressions publications, this was my first experience reading all 150 submissions.

I’m impressed by the honesty and thoughtfulness present in so many entries. When creating the theme this year, we wanted to establish a contrast between the “reality” portrayed in the media and the actual reality S.C. teens are experiencing. We hoped teens would tell us more about their world, challenges, and triumphs!

Teens responded to one of four contest prompts:
  • How is your reality different than the reality of teens portrayed in the media?
  • How has or how would being a teen mom or dad change your reality?
  • What do teens need to know now about staying healthy?
  • What is the reality in your home regarding love, sex and relationships?
Entries came from young men and women across the state. Some entries discussed the pressure teens feel to be sexually active. Others compared the lifestyles of wealth and excess portrayed on TV to their own lives. We received entries from teen moms and dads who shared the struggles they face in raising a child at such a young age.

Entries illustrated that “real” reality – reality in its purest, untelevised form – goes much deeper than the scripted reality we see on TV.

Judging took place last week, when two adult judges and three youth judges met, deliberated and  chose five exemplary entries that will be competing for the $250 grand prize. Later this week, online voting will open on Carolina Teen Health to determine the Teen Expressions 2011 grand prize winner.

Keep an eye on the CarolinaTeenHealth Facebook page for an announcement when voting begins, and make sure to vote once a ay for your favorite entry!
Carolina Teen Health
By Lauren Angelo, a Graduate Assistant from the University of South Carolina at the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

When the Training Coordinator gets to Attend a Training

So for the first time since I joined the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy back in November, I have the exciting opportunity to attend a professional training to help me better in my role. As Training Coordinator, I am that guy behind the scenes making sure location reservations are confirmed, that lunch has been ordered, and attendees get the correct CEUs for their time.

I get to select the topics of the trainings, recruit the trainers, and I work really hard to try and ensure that the trainings offered by the SC Campaign are diverse, varied, and located in various parts of the state to make them as accessible as possible. So imagine my excitement when I get to sit down for 2 days in Atlanta and be trained from national experts on the current trends related to our work in Teen Pregnancy Prevention. Yes this is work, but it is nice to let someone else work on logistics while I enjoy time learning.

This week I am attending the regional training entitled "Planning, Piloting, Prevention: Teenage Pregnancy Prevention for the Next Generation" presented by the Office of Adolescent Health and The Administration on Children, Youth, and Families (ACYF) and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB). This conference is particularly important because of my work with both of our Federal Grant projects - the community engagement work in Horry & Spartanburg counties as well as our Tier 1 project with Middle Schools across the state. All of these projects will require the SC Campaign to offer special trainings in the year ahead so I and the fantastic Training staff that works with me, will be sure that our trainings are tailored to meet the unique needs of these projects.

Tuesday morning, the opening session was on Adolescent Sexual Development which asked us the question "What's the new normal?" Youth today come from varied races, genders, sexual orientations, socioeconomic statuses, education levels, and regions of our state. It is important to understand what are the trends these youth face and what are some of their unique needs that we should keep in mind as we work with them.

Also we heard from Dr. Elizabeth Schroeder who is the Executive Director of ANSWER. (side note: did you know that any teacher in SC can receive free on-line professional development courses through Answer and the Department of Education? Contact me for more info about who is eligiable for this great opportunity). Anyways, Dr. Schroeder's second session was extremely enlightening. We discussed commonly held myths and frequently asked questions that teens have about sex based on questions that are sent to Answer. No, doing jumping jacks after sex will not prevent pregnancy. It was a challenge to all of us to be sure we are dispelling these myths.

Tuesday afternoon sessions were about Managing the Digital Media Monster - do not let technology scare you! Embrace it and all the potential opportunities that social media and texting can provide to reach teens where they are and in ways they communicate with their peers. Facebook is a great medium to reaching teens - in case you did not know that.

The other great part of this trip so far, has been the chance to meet partners from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy, Answer by Rutgars, and SIECUS, as well as local agencies around the region. Even though I love to travel, I can not wait to return to SC and start working on some of the things we have learned already.

Ryan Wilson is Training Coordinator for the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Ripple Effect

The statistics are so well known. Teen childbearing tends to follow a family cycle. Children born to teen mothers are more likely to live in poverty, perform poorly in school, serve time incarcerated. They are also more likely to have a child early in life. It is a vicious cycle that we have to break—and it will take every part of our society to do so.

But recently I was reminded of the other side.

Many years ago I returned from a meeting of the SC Campaign. At supper that evening we were discussing the meeting when suddenly our youngest daughter, who was about 8 at the time, let out a heavy sigh and said, “Sex, Sex, Sex! Can’t we talk about something else!” (And yes, I am a Baptist minister!)

Because of my involvement with the SC Campaign, sex was a common dinnertime conversation. My daughters heard us discussing the reasons teens shouldn’t be engaged in risky behaviors, of our hope for their lives, for the values that informed the choices we had made. They even heard about birth control and how we hoped they would make good and intelligent choices. It was just one of the things we talked about.

And it has rippled!

The other week our oldest daughter was home. She is now married and teaching in an inner city charter school. It is a different world from the one in which she grew up. Recently a young man was misbehaving in her class and so they went out in to the hall to talk.

“You can’t be acting this way in my class,” she said.
“But I have stuff going on. I’ve got babies on the way!” he said.
“Twins?”
“No! I got 2 babies coming with different girls!”
This young man is 17.

Another young man had missed an entire week of school. When he came in to see about making up his work he informed her that he had been out the previous week because it was his “week to take care of the baby.” He and the mother were alternating weeks while the other went to school.

As my daughter was telling me these stories I wondered about the ripple effects again. What about this young man who had been irresponsible and now was facing multiple fatherhood? What about this young couple who were trying to juggle school and childcare and growing up?

When we think about teen pregnancy we often focus on the hard statistics, but what about the good ones? I had to wonder about those dinner conversations we had, and how they were now rippling across our country to a high school where a young teacher was a safe place, where she might help intervene to break this cycle. I wonder about the conversations that parents have as they watch “Glee;” as they make their way home from church; as they talk about values and beliefs and reasons why decisions are made.

Those conversations have a ripple effect too! Oh, they will never show up on stat sheet—but they make all the difference in the world. They show up in a classroom teacher, in a college student.

Those are the ripples we need to be producing. So toss a pebble into the pond. Who knows where it might lead!

It might just change a life!

By Don Flowers, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy Board Member and Reverend at Providence Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Getting out of the Office

One of the best parts of my job here at the SC Campaign is being able to get out of the office and meet dedicated teen pregnancy prevention professionals across the state.  And, as someone who loves to eat, having a chance to visit some wonderful restaurants, quaint cafes, and little diners makes the experience even better.  

So, today, I am going to take a break from my “real” role in research and evaluation and talk about some great places I’ve been able to visit. South Carolina is full of historic small towns and locally owned cafes and restaurants. Below are a few of my favorites*:

Sumter: Whenever visiting Sumter to meet with some of our wonderful partners at Sumter Family Health or the United Way Diamonds program or the Sumter SCOOP coalition, we always make a point to stop at Baker's Sweets for amazing cappuccinos, muffins, or a lemon bar.  Since it’s on the way into downtown, we have been known to visit twice in one day!

Hampton County:  On our way to meet Shedron Williams at Access Network, we stopped for tea and cookies in the charming historic downtown area at Julienn's Espresso Cafe.  The inside is exposed brick and has an array of sweets and lunch items.  It’s a pleasant spot to rest after walking around the downtown area.
Cheraw: After visiting the Chesterfield County Coordinating Council, we stopped for lunch at the Rivers Edge Restaurant .  This is a fantastic restaurant that serves simple, delicious food and a staggering array of desserts!  And, they bake their own bread which you can bring home with you and you can buy a handmade quilt on display in the spacious dining room.  The restaurant is also located on a quaint main street in downtown Cheraw.

Conway: Last year when visiting the Horry County Adult Education program, I heard about the Trestle Bakery .  Located on the main drag of Conway in a lovely old store front, it has great coffee (which was nice after a 2 ½ hour drive from Columbia) and an amazing cinnamon roll I still think about!  Luckily for other staff at the SC Campaign, we’ll be spending a lot of time in Horry County over the next five years as part of our intensive community efforts in Horry County

Spartanburg: We have been working closely with the Spartanburg community for a few years and will continue to have intensive community efforts in Spartanburg County.  There are many restaurants in the charming downtown Spartanburg area, but a favorite is: Lime Leaf. At the Hub City Bookshop, you can visit two great little eateries: the Cakehead Bakeshop and the Little River Coffee Bar.

Where else have you been that you’d love someone else to try?  

*The SC Campaign does not have any relationship with any of the restaurants mentioned in this blog and does not endorse any private business. 

By Shannon Flynn, Director of Research and Evaluation

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Community Working for Change is Necessary Around Issue of Teen Pregnancy

My new favorite book is “The Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell.  It has been a guide book for me in my work over the past couple of years mobilizing a community around the issue of teen pregnancy.
Filled with great nuggets of wisdom on leadership and creating change, one piece that has most recently caught my attention is this: “if you want to bring about a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior, a change that would persist and serve as an example to others, you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs could be practiced and expressed and nurtured.”

While perhaps not laid out as eloquently as in Gladwell’s description, this is the definition we have been utilizing at the SC Campaign when talking about a community-wide initiative for teen pregnancy prevention. We know that to ultimately change young people’s beliefs and behaviors around sex, behaviors that would remain consistent over the long-term and set an example for the next generation of young people to follow, we must create a community around them that supports those beliefs and behaviors.

We need an entire community to be engaged in teen pregnancy prevention to be successful. Our five strategic goals are dedicated to identifying the various segments of the community that have the greatest roles to play.

Young people need parents and other trusted adults having real, open, honest conversations with them about relationships, love and sex. They need school administrators, Board members, and teachers committed to filling their heads with factual information related to sexual health so they can make informed decisions. They need youth serving agencies that will implement high quality programs unique to their needs. They need businessmen and women dedicated to making sure they have access to contraception if they choose to have sex. They need doctors and nurses who will ask questions and talk openly about sex, risks, and methods of protection without judgment.

We also know that young people need faith leaders who will fill their souls with a greater understanding of what real love is so they can make choices based on who they were created to be. They need legislators and elected officials who will develop and institute policies that will address their needs and protect them from those who would give them less than they deserve. They need people to give financial resources to organizations that work with them each day to give them the best quality programs and services.  They need peers who will be willing to stand up and speak out even if it means not being “cool” in the eyes of others.

With new funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ten communities in nine states have the support to really push for that level of community change. I am fortunate to be involved in mobilizing one of those communities. We are engaging and partnering with people from all segments of the community. We deliver the message again and again to as many as will hear it until it finally “sticks” and people are moved to action.

We are collaborating with incredible leaders from across the community – individuals Gladwell would call “exceptional.” And we’re making progress. We’re nearing our own tipping point and understanding what community engagement can really mean for our young people.

I encourage you to be exceptional – to get out of the mindset of business as usual and engage your community in your work. If it takes a village to raise a child, then isn’t it time we got the village on board? In Gladwell’s words, “Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push – in just the right place – it can be tipped.”

By: Dana Becker, Technical Assistance Specialist for the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Love and Basketball

It’s March and that can only mean one thing – it’s time for me to get really, really, really excited about college basketball. After all, there are two things that dominate conversations in my world… basketball and reproductive health.

An odd mixture of conversations for sure, but today the two issues collided and I am therefore compelled to blog about them, together. Those of you who are not die hard college basketball fans like me may have missed the news coming out of Povo, Utah today. Brigham Young University (BYU) is having an absolutely remarkable basketball season and has been ranked as high as #3 nationally… yes, BYU! But, this post isn’t about the team’s unprecedented basketball prowess, rather about the university’s honor code. News broke today that one of the team’s star players had been suspended for the rest of the season. Pat Forde of ESPN broke down the situation like this:

“Key player on probably the best team in school history gets in trouble in the final week of a 27-2 season. With a Mountain West Conference title and a probable No. 1 NCAA tournament seed there for the taking, the school learns of an honor code violation on Monday, a violation that school officials said was not a criminal offense. On Tuesday, Davies is suspended for the rest of the season.”

That report from ESPN was before we learned that the violation was… wait for it… wait for it… young Mr. Davies was busted having premarital sex with his girlfriend! Yikes! Are you serious?

So here we go, let the debate begin. Was the suspension justified? Was it too harsh? The kid’s a sophomore in college, what’s the big deal? It will make for interesting dialogue on the sports blogs for sure, but here’s the deal: BYU has a standard, an honor code, and expectation of its students. Davies didn’t live up to that standard and he was dismissed from the team. He knew the expectations, was well aware of the code and chose to violate it.

What if we all held young people to a standard and let them know there were associated consequences? What if conversations about love, sex and relationships included our young men at the same level they target young women? What if all young men, especially young male athletes, knew they weren’t exempt from the rules? What if…

By the way, as I write this post BYU is well on their way to losing a basketball game tonight (their first post suspension) ostensibly crashing their dream season. But, tonight’s lesson is about much more than wins and losses on the court. It’s about expectations for our young people, and a reminder that indeed we can have them!! What if…