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. 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

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

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