What can you do?

A rise in suicide rates among youth, widespread incidence of sexual abuse on college campuses, and an increase in risk-related driving fatalities…what do these have in common?  They all made recent headlines on the evening news in a single day!*

The relentless daily onslaught of risk related headlines can be overwhelming even paralyzing. It can feel impossible to affect change in the youth we work with on issues so important – as achievable as solving world hunger or peace.  How can we make a meaningful difference against the deluge of complex, inter-related issues – across an entire population of young people?It’s true, you alone can’t solve it all – but together if each of us takes a single step or action – we can make that meaningful, measurable, difference.

Here’s What You Can Do:

  1. BE A TRUSTED ADULT – Did you know that having a trusted adult is one of the biggest factors in reducing risk among youth and young adults? You don’t have to see them every day, you don’t have all the answers, you just need to be there in the moment and ask the important questions!
  2. LEARN THE LINGO – Teens can be intimidating. And let’s be honest, at times that extends from the earliest ages of adolescence (9-11 year olds) to college-age.  There are some time-tested, science-based tips and tricks you can learn to more effectively communicate with youth.  Check out this video on adolescent-specific motivational interviewing in action  And visit our new website to learn more Teen Speak.
  3. START THE CONVERSATION – 75% of deaths in youth are related to risky behaviors; yet only 21% of organizations use a standardized risk screening tool. Why the disparity?  Lots of possibilities – it’s an uncomfortable topic to broach, limitations on time and resources, or you just may not know how to respond when risks are identified. For insight on what you should look for in standardized, youth-specific assessment tool check out our assessment checklist.  And to learn more about the RAAPS risk identification and reduction system (which was created specifically to overcome all of these barriers and more) visit Possibilities for Change.

HEADLINE TO HEADLINE: RAAPS AHEAD OF THE CURVE

*It probably won’t surprise you to learn that each of the headline-grabbing risks making the news of late are issues screened for and identified by RAAPS – as RAAPS screens for each of the issues contributing most to preventable illness and death among youth and young adults.  What you might not know is that the providers and professionals using RAAPS are actually ahead of the curve – identifying AND REDUCING emerging risks among youth and young adults well ahead of available public health data and trends analysis.

Compare the key findings from the recently released 2017 “Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System” report from the CDC to the RAAPS data released in February 2013 from Possibilities for Change:

“Sex and drug use are on the decline among US teens. Other health risks – including suicidal ideation and bullying – do not appear to be subsiding” 2017 YRBS Report from the CDC “Anger management, depression and bullying are more prevalent health risks for youth age 11-20 than drug use, alcohol consumption and unprotected sex.” 2013 RAAPS Data from Possibilities for Change

Key Takeaways?

  1. Just “being there” really does matter.
  2. Do some homework – ramp up your Teen Speak!
  3. Ask the questions. Teens and young adults need you to start the conversation.

You can make a difference, do one thing today and two tomorrow! Start local and together we’ll make a global impact.

The Top 5 Worst Reasons Why…

We help providers, professionals, and parents, identify and reduce risk behaviors among youth and young adults. So you might imagine that in our line of work that we’ve “heard it all.”

And yes, we’ve heard a lot, but it’s not the stories and information that young people share that shocks us. It’s what we hear from youth-centric organizations (provider groups, schools, health departments…) about why they don’t screen for risk behaviors that we find flat out scary.

Here are the top 5 worst reasons we’ve heard…so far.

1. If we know about a risk we’ll be responsible to take action. At it’s core, we believe that this reason isn’t just about liability – it’s about the fear of what happens if something goes wrong. Think past that initial reaction – and it becomes obvious that we’d all feel equally terrible (and potentially, even as liable) if something goes wrong (such as an overdose, a suicide attempt, unreported abuse or bullying…) and we didn’t know about it in advance. No one is expecting you to be the expert at every risk or situation. Identifying risks in advance allows youth to “get it off their chest” and you to provide resources and when necessary referrals to the right experts who can help to prevent bad things from getting worse – or maybe even from happening at all.

2. We don’t have the time. It’s true, you always need more time. Our company was founded by a clinician with years of experience in busy pediatric and adolescent practices. Finding practical solutions that minimize impact on time and workflow is at the heart of everything we do. Did you know that in less than 5 minutes RAAPS identifies the risks that contribute most to preventable illness and death in young people aged 9 to 24? Even in the tightest of workflows in organizations that run like clockwork you’ll find a 5-minute window of wait time for the patient – why not put that time to (really meaningful) use?

3. We don’t have the money. You’ve heard that expression: “If it’s important you’ll find a way. If it’s not you’ll find an excuse.” To be fair, we think this reason is more about priorities than excuses. There are so many competing priorities for organizations that serve youth it’s hard for anything new to find it’s way to the top of the list. Think about the things that do get prioritized: vaccines; assessments of height, weight and blood pressure; current medications and allergies… Why do these things sift to the top? They save lives. Now think about this CDC statistic: risk behaviors are responsible for 3 out of 4 (75%) of all preventable deaths and illness in youth. Risk screening saves lives. And the cost? One month of access to the RAAPS system costs the same as a single case of coffee pods or printing paper. Really, we think it’s all about the priorities.

4. We don’t want to upset parents. That’s cool. Honestly, neither do we, but realistically how upset do you think parents will be if there is an uptick in bullying, an increase in youth carrying weapons, or a widespread incidence of sexual abuse that could have been identified with standardized screening? As providers of risk identification and reduction tools we have time-tested, proven strategies and resources for helping parents understand risk screening – why it’s important and how it helps. And trust us, that’s an easier conversation to have proactively than reactively.

5. We don’t know what to say. There’s no doubt: conversations about risk are uncomfortable. But did you know that having a trusted adult to confide in is one of the single most important mitigating factors in reducing youth risk? Just by being present and starting the conversation you’ve helped. So take the next step. If you are uncomfortable with discussing certain topics – get help. Participate in a workshop on adolescent-focused motivational interviewing; choose a risk screening system that offers built in health education so all youth get the same information (every time); and make sure that system provides you with evidence-based messages and talking points to help get the conversation started. Because let’s be real – saving a life significantly outweighs one uncomfortable conversation.

Sex Ed 101: Here’s what we’ve learned so far…

The last year and a half has been very eventful here at P4C – we launched RAAPS 2.0 with a complete platform upgrade…  AND we released our first new product since our company was founded: the Adolescent Counseling Technology or “ACT” for Sexual Health (and our release of ACT for Tobacco is just around the corner).

With over a year of youth completing ACT for Sexual Health – we took a moment to analyze the data and reflect on what we’ve learned so far.  We were shaken at some of the findings and wanted to share them with you!

Our first ‘schooling’ came in the data.  We expected higher rates of risk among sexually active youth – but the levels are honestly staggering (and disquieting).

Among sexually active youth who were assessed and counseled by the ACT for Sexual Health system:

  • 19% have been in an abusive relationship in the last 12 months and 16% report being forced to participate in unwanted sexual activity
  • Nearly 1 in 4 (23%) had a partner who refused to use condoms or prevented the youth from using birth control
  • And 16% of youth report having bartered sex (for a place to stay, phone, alcohol or drugs, money or something else) – this number was much higher than any of us involved in the research and development of ACT had anticipated – and a growing trend that should be on the radar of all providers and professionals working with youth.

Schooling number two?  ACT solves different problems depending on the setting. We reached out to the providers and professionals using ACT – ranging from experienced sexual health gurus to novices and newbies.  We were interested in finding out the different ways organizations are using ACT SH to solve their problems related to engaging youth and supporting them in healthy decision making:

  • SBHCs are using ACT to open the door to more in-depth, in-person dialogue and counseling with sexually active youth and they are using the population-level data for reporting and to guide programming
  • Primary care and pediatric practices are using the electronic counseling to ensure sexually active youth are provided evidence-based, standardized education (a challenge in time-crunched practices where providers often have varying levels of experience and comfort levels with sex-related risk topics)
  • Health Departments are leveraging the technology to provide STI counseling and follow-up on a sustainable scale that wasn’t previously possible with lean staffing and limited funding
  • Youth and school programs use ACT to identify the myriad of sexual health services youth need and provide appropriate referrals and resources.

And finally – when it comes to adolescent sexual health:  standardization, scalability & sustainability really matter.  Building on the previous points – for providers and professionals working with youth to reduce sexual health risks ACT provides the ability to provide evidence-based, standardized counseling across a broad population, essential in today’s time-crunched, underfunded world.  For many of the organizations we work with who depend on grant-funding, ACT for Sexual Health is providing an affordable, sustainable intervention to bridge funding fluctuations.

Are you using ACT for Sexual Health?  If so, please weigh in and tell us your Sex Ed story!

Want to learn more?  Click here to schedule a call to find out more about ACT SH works in organizations like yours.

Getting to “Why?”

How boot-camp took us back to the future.

Our team recently went through a strategic planning “boot-camp” as part of a grant requirement.  A mandatory part of the exercise was justifying our value…what do we bring to the table, how do we help?

This was definitely a test.   Our short answers, in rapid succession:

  • “Because 75% of serious illness and death in youth is preventable…”
  • “Because nearly half of all youth who commit suicide visited a healthcare provider within the previous month…”
  • “Umm…because it’s the right thing to do?”

We were pushed further: “What is in it for your users – the healthcare provider, the professional working with youth?  How are you helping them?”

Ahhh – there it was, the lightbulb moment!

Preventing avoidable illness and death in youth is our mission – it’s the reason why we do what we do.  It’s the same mission that drives most of us in this work.

But making it as easy as possible for providers and professionals, to identify and counsel youth on the risky behaviors that drive our mission…making it painless…THAT is the reason behind WHY we’ve created every single solution and service we offer.

It’s the reason why RAAPS was created in the first place.  It was our first “tool”. RAAPS was developed to solve all of the workflow and practice management issues that get in the way of your mission:

  • Validated, short-format. Why? Your time is short – RAAPS has been proven to identify the most significant risks – in minutes.
  • Why? To ensure every youth is screened the same way – with the same questions – every time.
  • Tablet / smartphone delivery. Why? Youth engage honestly with technology – you don’t have to “ask” all of the questions – instead you can use your time to follow up on the risks identified.
  • Prioritized, evidence-based talking points. Why?  To make it easier to get the conversation started specific to the risks identified – we all have different experience and comfort levels with risk topics.

Yes, we could go on…  but back to boot-camp.  It was a great experience – if for no other reason than it reminded us of why we continue to develop our technology… facilitate the adolescent-focused MI trainings… write the books…. Why we got started and where we are going into the future – as we achieve our mission together with all of you!

Why RAAPS?

RAAPS versus GAPS and other homegrown risk screening tools

People pose the “why?” question every day. Why should I invest the time, energy and resources into an adolescent risk screening and counseling technology? We may be biased, but our answer is simple: why not?

Before we dive into the several reasons why thousands of sites nationwide find tremendous value of integrating RAAPS into their practice or program, here is the 140-character, tweet-friendly definition of RAAPS: a standardized, validated risk assessment and behavior change counseling tool to support health professionals working with adolescents.

In simplified language, we make it easy for health professionals to do their job. We partner with clinicians, counselors and other providers who are passionate about improving adolescent health. Our partners—like school-based health centers, pediatric offices, sexual health clinics, schools, etc.—operate within a preventative-oriented culture (not crisis-oriented) and genuinely care about identifying risks, improving outcomes and changing lives. It’s not for the faint of heart.

RAAPS can make you money

“Say what?!” (Please excuse our language. Sometimes we find the way teens speak kind of catchy.) Yes, our leading risk assessments can save you money. How?

  • RAAPS dramatically improves the productivity of your existing staff and the effectiveness of your operations. You will no longer have to sit face-to-face with your patient, ask the sometimes-awkward questions, record the data, then figure out how to best counsel the patient to promote positive behavior change. RAAPS saves a provider’s time by flagging potential risk behaviors and offering health message talking points to guide the conversation.
  • By using a standardized, validated tool (RAAPS) to screen adolescents each month, the cloud-based system may be able to pay for itself. Assuming an average insurance reimbursement rate of $5 per administration, your sites would need to use the system with only 10 patients per month in order to recover the cost of using the system. #winning

RAAPS’ real-time tracking and easy to use reporting measures outcomes

Can your risk screening tool do this? If it’s not RAAPS, the answer is likely no. Access to individual and population data allows you to identify trends and assess your intervention effectiveness. Plus, data gathered can be helpful when applying for grants and gaining additional funding.

RAAPS asks the right questions

The risk landscape is always changing and unfortunately widening, which is why we continue to update or modify our questions to elicit honest responses from teens. Other risk screening tools, such as GAPS, hasn’t been updated since the early 2000’s. The way teens speak and the risks they’re involved in have changed drastically since the era of Boy Meets World and Backstreet Boys. At Possibilities for Change, we continue to identify issues and areas that are harmful to a teen’s health and well-being. One of the many beautiful things about RAAPS is that all questions are scientifically validated—and we used teens to help us refine the actual questions so that they were more understandable and relevant! Unlike most homegrown tools, the RAAPS youth-friendly patient portal includes audio and bilingual health messages features to increase health literacy.

The 21-question RAAPS assessment falls within seven risk categories identified by the CDC as contributing to adolescent morbidity and mortality. The Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine has our back, citing RAAPS as one of their important resources, handouts, toolkits and treatment protocols for healthcare providers to use in their practices.

In our fast-paced, technology-driven world, the manner and method of how we ask is just as important as what we ask. When it comes to discussions around things like sexual behavior and alcohol use, teens are more honest and comfortable answering to a tablet or other technology than an adult. The assessment takes about 5 minutes to complete—a better alternative to other assessments out there that take more than a half hour. Ain’t nobody got time for that! (We warned you.)

Learn more about RAAPS at possibilitiesforchange.com or drop us a line at info@pos4chg.org.