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 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 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

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