This week we’re presenting a poster* at the national Office of Adolescent Health’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Conference. We’re really excited about it so we want to share on media like Twitter and Facebook. However, the poster covers two really complicated topics – race and sexual health – that we don’t dare distill down to 140 characters without having some backup info. So here’s what’s up:
Back in 2010, the pregnancy rate for African-American teens was 60% higher than the rate for White teens. Also in 2010, we launched Gaston Youth Connected, a community-wide initiative to reduce teen pregnancy 10% by 2015. The initiative looked at disparities, but did not seek to specifically address pregnancies in young women of color.
In 2012, the African-American teen pregnancy rate was 1.7% lower than the White teen pregnancy rate, closing a long-standing gap and making Gaston County one of only four North Carolina counties where the African-American teen pregnancy rate is lower than the White rate.
A lot of the things that impacted this shift started before Gaston Youth Connected did. Let’s be clear: We’re not taking credit. Right now, we’re trying to understand what happened, why, and what (if any) role the project played.
One of the very first planning activities for Gaston Youth Connected was to work with community leaders to review GIS maps and locate teen birth “hot spots” in the county. Community leaders then identified potential program and outreach locations to coordinate efforts between residents, churches, and youth serving organizations.
Though only 20% of Gaston County’s teen population is African-American, the disparity in teen birth rates caused the project to locate services in “hot spots” that happened to be in largely African-American communities. As a result:
- 57% of participants in evidence-based programs were African-American
- Half of program partner organizations primarily serve African-American youth and programs were offered in six predominantly African-American churches
- 16 of 20 program facilitators were African-American
- 30% of Gaston County’s African-American female teens are covered by a highly effective contraceptive method that they selected and received at the Gaston County Health Department
- 20% of the Gaston County Health Department’s contraceptive-seeking teen clients chose an IUD or Implant (the two most effective methods), double the percentage at similar clinics statewide
In the community…
- Of the project’s nine youth-and-parent Let’s Talk Month events, 44% of participants were African-American
- Two of the three project leadership teams overrepresented African-Americans in the community based on general population percentages
You have to provide really good services that work for people. (This might seem like a no-brainer…) For example, the Gaston County Health Department made a really concerted effort to train their docs to counsel to the most effective methods. They also took significant steps to become more adolescent friendly. The fact that 30% of the African-American teen population used the GCHD to access great birth control speaks volumes.
Actually connecting people to services matters. We're not talking about program flyers here. You have to make a concerted effort to connect people to programs and services. You have to think about where they are, who they want to hear from, and what they want and need.
Use data to drive your work. Again, we didn’t set out to impact the African-American teen pregnancy rate; we set out to get services into teen birth hot spots. Identifying these hot spots let us find the people who might need the most services, and then help them get the services they might want and need.
*You may be asking, “What’s a poster?” A poster is way to show off your research or program results at an academic event. They usually include an overview, some data, some results... As a communications person, I have fun making them but cannot fully explain why they are a thing.