Increased contraceptive use and the availability of more effective contraceptives have been the biggest contributors to the historic declines in teen pregnancy rates. But how do sexually active young people actually find birth control when they need it? A new article by SHIFT NC staff in the Journal of Adolescent Health provides key elements of success communities can use to help link young people to the high-quality care they need.
Integrated Community Strategies for Linking Youth to Adolescent Reproductive Health Services: A Case Study highlights one of the major successes of the Gaston Youth Connected initiative, SHIFT NC's original community-wide initiative. Gaston Youth Connected (GYC) reduced teen pregnancy rates by more than 40% between 2010 and 2015, and is a model that has since been replicated in North Carolina and across the country. Working with local healthcare providers to improve adolescent care, as well as working to help teens and families find and navigate care, had a huge impact as the community worked to reduce teen pregnancy rates.
SHIFT NC staff worked with partners to increase the adolescent-friendliness of healthcare with strategies like providing training and technical assistance on how to work with youth, helping redecorate teen clinic spaces, and supplying healthcare providers with youth-friendly materials. One core concept in improving adolescent healthcare is a strategy called the No Wrong Door Approach. Using this approach, healthcare providers adolescent patients about their sexual health at every visit. No Wrong Doors sets the tone for a productive and nonjudgmental visit, ensures patients get all the services they need, and helps patients feel comfortable returning for care later in life when they need sexual and reproductive healthcare.
In addition to helping healthcare providers become more teen friendly, SHIFT NC staff increased "linking networks" - referral pathways to help community organizations and leaders connect families with healthcare providers. Helping teens and families find and use the care they need helped more young people get both sexual and reproductive healthcare, as well as more healthcare overall.