For 30 years, we have been North Carolina’s leader in adolescent pregnancy prevention. During that time, we have seen remarkable success, including a teen pregnancy rate that has dropped 67% since the early 1990s.
We have long understood that an effective approach to pregnancy prevention requires a broader approach to sexual health, and that the people we serve – parents, educators, clinicians, community leaders, and teens themselves – need support on more than pregnancy prevention.
We are expanding our mission and scope to lead North Carolina to improve adolescent and young adult sexual health. We aren’t changing our approach of using evidence-based and best practice strategies to improve health; we’ll be using this same approach to address adolescent pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and STIs, sexuality, development, and relationships.
We are changing our name to SHIFT NC (Sexual Health Initiatives For Teens) to represent what we have always done and what we will continue to do: shift communities, knowledge, policies, and practices so that young people grow up healthy.
We’ve actually been working on a broader set of sexual health issues for a long time. In some ways, this change is about our name and mission catching up with our work. It’s also about getting more intentional about our work.
In recent years, our pregnancy prevention work has gotten more precise, applying intensive efforts to areas with higher-risk youth. That’s been a smart approach. In one project, we saw a nearly 40% reduction in teen pregnancy rates in just 3 years and parity between white and African American rates after a long historical disparity.
Our statewide work, however, has already been serving a broader sexual health mission. For example, our work to improve sex education serves a pregnancy prevention purpose, but also includes HIV and STI prevention and helps make schools safer and more supportive places for LGBTQ youth. Our BrdsNBz Text Line always answered questions about anatomy, parenting, puberty, relationships, etc.
By officially expanding our mission and scope of work, we want to give full attention to young people’s sexual health, whether it fits neatly into a “pregnancy prevention” box or not.
Our Unique Spot
There are many great North Carolina organizations that work to address some area of sexual health or sexuality for the entire population. Our organization has always been unique among these for two key reasons:
- We specialize in adolescents. We understand best practices for working with adolescents. We listen to them. We work to help systems and people adapt to their unique needs.
- We work directly with the systems and organizations that serve young people, and we have expertise in helping the places that young people live, learn, and grow become a part of supporting their sexual health.
The “New” Us
The “new” us will look a lot like the “old” us. We have always used evidence-based and best practice strategies to help communities prevent pregnancies. Now we’ll use those same methods with the goal of improving sexual health. So, here’s what we do:
- To shift awareness, we tackle myths and distribute data so North Carolina can have a clear understanding of adolescent sexual health and of the most effective ways to improve it.
- To shift communities, we help local champions assess their needs, build support, and pick the best strategies for their local youth.
- To shift policy, we encourage policymakers, administrators, and advocates to take a clear-eyed, nonpartisan approach to boosting young people’s health.
- To shift on-the-ground practice, we train and coach teachers, clinicians, and other youth-serving professionals to implement proven practices to improve adolescent sexual health. Because sustainability and scope matter, we often provide this technical assistance to whole systems, as well as to individual practitioners.
Ultimately, our goal is to lead North Carolina to improve adolescent and young adult sexual health so young people grow up healthy.
Questions about our new name and mission? Contact Elizabeth Finley.