Monday, February 24, 2014

Rocking with Beverly Bond: Summer Institute 2014

I am always excited about Summer Institute – you know that second week in June when experts from all around the state and country come together to network, share knowledge, and hopefully grow professionally in the process.  This year, as the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy celebrates 20 years as an agency, I am even more excited to be part of another great conference!  Our theme – Saluting Success, Pushing for Progress – is a reminder that every year, we must push the envelope a bit more, strive a little harder, and keep pressing to gain and learn from past experiences.  Last year, I was watching Black Girls Rock on BET – an awards show honoring young women and celebrities of color who epitomize strength, courage, perseverance, and hard work.  As I watched and monitored social media (multitasking as always), I realized that so many of my friends and colleagues were inspired, mesmerized even, by the POSITIVE images of the women and young girls featured that night.  For years, I have known that Black Girls Rock Foundation founder, Beverly Bond’s, work would be great inspiration for colleagues at the conference.  But this year’s show and a subsequent interview on MSNBC featuring her confirmed for me the need to invite Ms. Bond to Summer Institute 2014.  Beverly is a former DJ in New York City and now uses her experiences to mentor, educate, and fund raise on behalf of young women.  Self-esteem, guidance, perseverance, and encouragement – these are few of the values her work tries to instill in young women, especially those who are often marginalized and ignored.  All of us - individuals, communities, and the nation - benefit when young people (all young people) are confident and prepared to be productive participants in society.  We look forward to having Ms. Bond rock with us in Charleston, helping us to push the envelope a bit more, strive a little harder, and keep pressing to gain and learn from past experiences.  We all want what’s best for our youth but sometimes it takes a little inspiration to help us continue pushing for progress!

by Kim Wicker, Outreach and Development Specialist, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Monday, February 17, 2014

What's LGBTQ Got to Do With It?

Last month, I got the opportunity to present a webinar for the SC Campaign, “Meeting the Healthcare Needs of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth.”  This is a research area that I am very passionate about, and I am well-versed on the literature on this topic. My dissertation even focused on the health outcomes and communication practices of this population. The webinar went extremely well and at the conclusion, I gave the audience an opportunity to ask questions. I found it ironic that three people asked me the same thing: “What does LGBTQ youth have to do with teen pregnancy?” This question was quite baffling to me, as I thought I illustrated the relationship between sexual health outcomes and LGBTQ youth in my presentation.

After weeks of pondering, I felt this was a question that needed to be addressed and a myth that needed to be dispelled.  LGBTQ youth, also referred to as sexual minority youth, are at risk of getting pregnant just like any other youth. It is quite ignorant to believe that someone who identifies as LGBTQ cannot get pregnant or has no interest in pregnancy prevention. Research shows that lesbian and bisexual females are two to seven times more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy than their heterosexual counterpart. That’s right… lesbian and bisexual youth are more likely to get pregnant than a heterosexual adolescent. Furthermore, lesbian and bisexual females are about as likely to have sex with a male partner as a heterosexual female, yet more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy. This is due in part to inconsistent and incorrect use of contraceptives. This research highlights the need for teen pregnancy prevention programs and contraceptive counseling targeted specifically for sexual minority youth.

The take-home message here is this: just because someone identifies as LGBTQ does not mean that they are exempt or protected from pregnancy. We, as health professionals, educators, and providers, have an important role to play in improving the health outcomes and overall well-being of LGBTQ youth. It is imperative that we understand that LGBTQ youth and teen pregnancy go hand-in-hand because the same behavior, regardless of one’s sexual orientation, can contribute to this outcome.  So, if you want to know what LGBTQ youth have to do with teen pregnancy…this population has everything to do with teen pregnancy and should no longer be overlooked in prevention efforts.

To view the webinar mentioned above, click here

Monday, February 10, 2014

Why Being Single on Valentine's Day Isn't All Bad

With Cupid's arrow quickly approaching, those of us who don't have a honey to spend the holiday with may be feeling a little down. There is no need for despair! There are lots of ways you can feel loved this Valentine's Day. Here's how:

1. Pamper yourself. Remember all that money you once spent on roses, chocolates, teddy bears and fancy dinners? Well, guess what? Now you can spend all that money on yourself! Live a little, schedule a massage or pedicure. Of if you're me, treat yourself to some shiny new disc golf discs!

2. Live up to your own expectations. I have experienced more than one Valentine's Day where I set my expectations too high. I expected to be whisked away on a romantic date at an Italian bistro or given a dozen roses, and instead, ended up at the Indian joint down the street (but don't get me wrong, I love Indian food any other day) So this year, set your expectations high and meet them yourself. This way, it's your own fault if you are let down!

3. Go on a friend date. Why not get all of your single friends together for a romantic dinner so you can enjoy singledom together? This sounds way more enticing than sitting on the couch, eating a box of chocolates and watching "The Notebook" alone. If you want to be corny about it and make the couples around you jealous, go around and say one thing you love about each of your friends. Go ahead, make them feel all warm and fuzzy inside!

4. You don't have to share. Head to the grocery store on February 15 and stock up on discounted candy that don't have to share with anyone!

5. Love yourself. Don't let yourself get down because you don't have a special someone to enjoy this year's Valentine's Day with. Take this time to reflect on what you love about yourself and how you can make your life as fulfilling as possible. 

We need to teach our young people that it's okay to be single - this is a great time to find yourself and discover what your passions are. So this year, if you find yourself alone on Friday night, don't sulk! Grab a box of candy hearts and let all of those compliments sink in! 

by Sara Lamberson, Corporate Communications Specialist, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Monday, February 3, 2014

What's Next?

As you’ve probably already noticed, 2014 is a big year for the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Not only are we turning 20 this year, but we are beyond thrilled to be able to announce a 47% reduction in the state’s teen birth rate since our inception. This is an accomplishment that many once thought to be impossible – it’s a success story for the ages and a story that is going to be told over, and over, and over again during our 20th anniversary.

We’re early into 2014 so the sample size is small, but I’ve been struck by the number of people who are avoiding the “why such great progress?” question and instead focusing on “what’s next?” It’s a fair question and one that I find I am asking myself different iterations of constantly. What is next? Where do we go from here?  How does an agency, indeed an entire nation, build on this great success and use it as leverage for even more progress in the future?

In trying to come up with a coherent answer, I’ve come across two recent columns in the New York Times – one by Nicholas Kristof and the other by David Brooks.  The columns were remarkably similar in their addressing of family stability and expanding opportunity, respectively. (As an aside, both columns are well worth the time it will take you to read them). To my delight, both columns offered family planning/contraceptive access as a means to these ends. This is obviously something that we have been talking about in our office for years and something that for sure will be part of our organization’s strategic plan moving forward.

What also struck me was that each author presented contraceptive access as part of a larger plan, not THE plan. I think this point is instructive for our agency and for the entire field of teen pregnancy prevention. If we want to see continued progress we need to broaden our view of the world and understand the nuanced, complex solutions that are necessary to help children succeed. We need to acknowledge that issues like school-based sex education are essential, but not sufficient. We shouldn't allow ourselves to be completely distracted by petty arguments and political gamesmanship centering on what type of sex ed instruction young people should receive; rather, we should understand this is only a small piece of a much larger conversation. In Brooks’ words, we must “widen the debate.”

What do children need to succeed? The list is long. It includes access to contraception, and yes, even sex education. It also includes, among other things, improving the delivery of education (at all levels), ensuring that every child can identify caring adults in their lives, improving parenting skills, and creating a more well defined, accessible path to the future for our children – be that employment, college, etc. This requires us to expand our circle of friends and it requires us to update our talking points. When we see preventing teen pregnancy as a means to a greater end, it seems obvious to me that more people will be willing to join us at the table.

This is only the beginning of the conversation, one that we look forward to. I welcome your thoughts and input…

by Forrest Alton, CEO, SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy