2016 SASH Report: What Can You Do to Promote Youth Sexual Health?
By Becca Bolden, Research and Evaluation Manager
July 21st, 2016
We are pleased to announce the release of Colorado Youth Matter’s 2016 State of Adolescent Sexual Health Report this month. The SASH Report has been, and continues to be, a cornerstone of our work and the work of our partners; highlighting our state’s progress against national trends while also clearly illuminating where there is more work to be done in the fight against disparities. We frame the data in the context of recommendations as a call to action to improve the health for Colorado’s young people.
Recommendation #1: Promote the use and collection of youth sexual health research and data to inform decision making about effective programs and prioritizing resources.
- Between 2013 and 2014, the HIV rate for Colorado teens ages 15-19 almost doubled, and almost quadrupled in Denver county alone over the course of a single year.
- Black/African American youth were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with an STI in 2014 compared to their peers of other races.
What you can do: In order to promote health equity and reduce disparities, it is vital to have the research and data to fully understand what solutions will be effective and where best to prioritize resources to promote effective programs. Use these data to advocate for local school district participation in the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey (HKCS) to better understand student behavior, health and well-being. On a state and national level, encourage policy makers to continue funding the evaluation of innovative and promising programs to meet the needs of underserved youth. While the list of federally approved evidence-based programs is growing (link to Andie’s blog), there still aren’t enough programs that have passed through vigorous research and evaluation to meet the needs of all young people and that can be implemented in multiple settings, especially clinic-based settings.
Recommendation #2: Provide Askable Adult trainings for families and youth-serving professionals in your community.
According to the 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, students who report having an Askable Adult are more likely to:
- Delay first sexual activity
- Have fewer sex partners
- Use a condom during sex
- Use an effective form of birth control
And less likely to:
- Use alcohol or drugs during last sexual intercourse
What you can do: Become an Askable Adult! These data show how important it is to ensure that youth have identified adults with whom they feel safe to talk to about their health and well-being. Askable adults can be vital resources in setting a tone for positive and nonjudgmental conversations about sexual health early and often throughout a young person’s life. If you are interested in providing an Askable Adult training for your organization, school or community, contact our Training Manager, Ruthie Kolb [link to her email].
Recommendation #3: Support a holistic approach to youth health and well-being by ensuring linkages and accessibility between education and healthcare services.
- School-based health centers can ensure young people have access to services without a long waiting period, which is vital for those seeking contraception and/or STI testing.
- While the HPV vaccine has been proven to be effective in preventing certain types of cancer, including cervical cancer, 40% of adolescent girls and 60% of adolescent boys have not started the vaccine series, suggesting a lack of education and awareness about the vaccine.
What you can do: Advocate for sexual health education to occur in conjunction with comprehensive health education in a sustainable and institutionalized way so that youth understand all aspects of health including safe relationships, STI prevention, family planning, decision-making and goal-setting. If your school or organization provides health education to youth, ensure that there are explicit links, referrals and/or connections to services and resources that youth can access outside of the classroom. Also educate parents on the importance of preventive and holistic care.
Recommendation #4: Promote opportunities for youth leadership development.
According to 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey data:
- 91% of sexually active youth who reported that it was “very important” to finish high school also used birth control at last sex, compared to only 54% of sexually active youth who reported that finishing school was “not at all important.”
- Young people who report almost always hating school have approximately twice as many sexual partners as those who report never hating school.
What you can do: Create safe and supportive environments for youth to lead and thrive so that they find value in school and other leadership opportunities, and can grow towards reaching their full potential. One way to do this is to incorporate youth advisor positions on your staff, or add youth members onto the Board of Directors to ensure youth voice is integrated throughout organizations and institutions that strive to have an impact on youth health and well-being. If it is outside of capacity to create formal positions for youth in the organization, ensure that you are creating opportunities for authentic and intentional youth-adult partnerships in your programming.
Recommendation #5: Integrate positive youth development and trauma-informed approaches.
According to 2013 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey data:
- Approximately 9% of young women reported being forced to have sex against their wishes. In other words, 9% of young women reported being raped.
- One in ten students had been physically hurt on purpose by the person they were dating.
- Lesbian, gay and bisexual-identified students were 2.5 times more likely to report feeling unsafe at school compared to their heterosexual peers.
What you can do: Use positive youth development and trauma-informed approaches to support programs in being responsive to the needs of young people and fully incorporate their voice in programs and policies that impact their health and well-being. This is especially true for young people that experience health disparities and are treated inequitably by the systems in place in our communities, state and county – especially for LGBT students, young families, and students of color. Learn more about incorporating these approaches into your programs and organizations by contacting our Capacity Building team [Link to Stefanie or Holly].
Recommendation #6: Advocate for continued, and in some locations increased, funding and political support of clinics that provide vital sexual health services to youth and their families.
While Colorado teen birth rates as a whole have dropped dramatically over the past two decades, disparities remain:
- The top 10 counties with the highest teen birth rates are all in rural counties.
- Latina, Black/African American and Native American/Alaska Native females have disproportionately high teen birth rates compared to the state as a whole.
What you can do: find out if your community has access to services through Title X Family Planning Clinics, School-Based Health Centers, Federally Qualified Health Centers and/or Planned Parenthood clinics that provide important health services for youth, and if not, let your local leaders know how important these services are. Accessible – meaning easy to get to, flexible hours, culturally responsive, youth friendly and low or no cost – clinical services are essential to reducing disparities and promoting health equity for all young people in Colorado.
These data are only one part of the story we tell about young people’s sexual health in Colorado. We encourage partners to use the data and consider ways they can use this information as a platform to initiate conversation, ask more questions, and improve their work in promoting the sexual health and wellbeing of youth in their communities.
To purchase the full SASH report click here.