SHIFT NC

In the presence of public health rock stars: living legends and their message

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We're cross-posting this blog item from Every Woman NC, a project to improve the health of North Carolina women of childbearing age. Special thanks to Stacie Turpin Saunders for sharing her experience! 

Go to the original post at Every Woman NC. 

This guest blog post was written by our former Triad Regional Coordinator, Stacie Turpin Saunders. Stacie has joined Alamance County Health Department where she serves as the Health Education Supervisor. Her time spent working with us was brief, but exceptional, and we know she’ll be fantastic at her new position. Best of all, she remains a dedicated advocate for and partner with the March of Dimes NC Preconception Health Campaign.

I knew it was going to be an awesome day when I started my trek to the Koury Convention Center in Greensboro on May 16 for the APPCNC Annual Conference. The Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) conference brings together people across the state working on teen pregnancy prevention to share ideas and learn from one another. Now usually, being an exhibitor at a conference doesn’t cause this much excitement in me, but today was different. Only a few miles separated me from being in the presence of two influential public health leaders…Dr. Michael Carrera and Dr. Joycelyn Elders were the highlighted speakers for the day. As I entered the convention center, cars and buses occupied every inch of the parking lot, not a single spot was vacant. Not to be deterred, I swung the car around and headed for the mall parking lot. Cart in hand and display board mounted on my shoulder, I headed for conference. Little did I know there was a state workplace safety conference also taking place the same day. I maneuvered my way through orange cones, hard hats, safety goggles, and ergonomic whatchamacallits—to be honest this safety conference was more like an obstacle course than a conference! 

As I rounded the corner, I could tell I had finally made it and apparently so had almost 300 other folks! According to APPCNC organizers, this was one of their biggest conferences and I believe it. There were smiling faces greeting one another and sharing updates about programs. I quickly assembled the March of Dimes NC Preconception Health Campaign’s table and before all the materials were out, folks were already coming by to peruse the multitude of materials we have available (check out our Order Materials section to see for yourself). Not surprisingly, the Reproductive Life Planning materials were very popular among this crowd. 

Then I noticed fewer and fewer people heading over to the exhibitors and more and more heading to the large ballroom…it was time! Of course, I still had a job to do; I mean I was there as an exhibitor, right? So I politely, ever so patiently, waited for the majority of attendees to enter the ballroom before I also headed inside to find a seat. After a brief introduction, Dr. Carrera stood up and began a one man concert around his passion for helping children and his work to focus on an “above the waist” approach to teen pregnancy prevention. For those who are not familiar with Dr. Carrera and the CAS-Carrera Model, I encourage you to learn more about this comprehensive approach to reducing teen pregnancy by addressing not one risk factor, but a range of risk factors that contribute to risky health behaviors and ultimately teen pregnancy. As he continued to talk, the excitement grew in the crowd and by the conclusion the crowd was alive and ready to combat the ills of the world. And this was just the opening act! 

The crowd dispersed to attend workshops before convening again in the large ballroom. This time it was for the keynote address by Dr. Joycelyn Elders, former Surgeon General. Dr. Elders used humor and stated the obvious to drive home the point that while we have done much to reduce the teen pregnancy rate in NC, we still have work to do. NC has had a 53% decline in teen pregnancy over the past 20 years, but we still fall far behind the rest of the country. High rates of unplanned pregnancies and STIs are persistent reminders of the magnitude of work needed. Dr. Elders had the ability to speak right to you while at the same time addressing the entire crowd. After she concluded, the entire crowd jumped to their feet clapping as if they were waiting for an encore. But like Dr. Carrera, Dr. Elders exited the stage to take pictures and talk with her “fans”. 

Many thanks to APPCNC for hosting a spectacular conference. I think everyone left eager to do more and think more broadly about how we approach teen pregnancy in our state. Dr. Carrera and Dr. Elders both agreed that this is about the whole person, below and above the waist. It made me think about the reproductive life plan promoted through our Campaign and how that plan is a piece of the much larger overall life plan for an individual. How do the programs in our state encompass the whole teen or the whole life plan? And if they don’t, how do we start doing that? 

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