Tag: adolescent risk

To D.I.Y. or not to D.I.Y….

We are long past the days when “Do It Yourself” or “DIY” described college students creating projects on a dime.  These days DIY is mainstream.  On a whole, the DIY philosophy is laudable.  It represents problem solving, independence, thrift, and creativity.   However, there are times when DIY should be “DDIY” (Don’t Do It Yourself!)

Adolescent risk assessment is just such a case – whether it’s developing a screening tool completely from scratch – or creating an assessment that has just the “right” risk questions from existing screeners.  There are actually a LOT of evidence-based, scientific reasons why adolescent risk screeners should not be a homegrown DIY.

Here are just 3 of the top reasons why Adolescent Risk Screening is a DIY Don’t:

  1. Risk assessment is about much more than just the questions. Many organizations who have created in-house screeners focus extensively on the questions to be included in the assessment. In youth risk reduction, questions are only the beginning. In fact – in the CDC framework for risk assessment development, only two of the ten recommendations (20%) focus on the questions themselves.
  2. Tailoring is critical. From an assessment that is tailored to literacy, culture and age – to the delivery of tailored, action-oriented, information – the CDC framework emphasizes the importance of tailoring in efficacy of risk identification and reduction.
  3. A risk screener must be evaluated for validity and reliability. In order for an assessment to be considered valid it must meet content, construct and criterion-related validity.  In addition – it should be reliable (give the same results, with the same types of people, consistently).

To learn more about the differences between DIY tools and a validated, standardized assessment (and why those differences really matter), please check out our newest resource:

The Science of Youth Risk Assessment


Talking Sex with Teens: Community Health Centers ACT for Change

Today’s adolescents are engaging in risky sexual behaviors at earlier ages than ever before, resulting in nearly 250,000 teen births in 2014 and nearly 10 million new sexually transmitted infections annually. Sexually transmitted infections are a significant public health problem in the United States and of particular concern in the adolescent and young adult population. A big factor contributing to the spike is that often times, teens are reluctant to discuss their sexual health with their care team since information about sexual health related behaviors and risk factors has the potential to appear in care summaries, patient portals, insurance explanation of benefits and the like—all which adolescent and young adult patients worry can be viewed by parents and guardians. The lack of communication results in an increased risk for undiagnosed and untreated STIs, missed opportunities for behavioral health interventions, including guidance on managing risk and addressing social determinants of health, and increased disease burden in the community.

In order to improve sexual health screening and behavioral counseling in primary care, Possibilities for Change teamed up with the National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC), the Health Center Network of New York (HCNNY), and four participating health centers across New Jersey and New York for a pilot project using the ACT Sexual Health System.

With today’s earlier onset of sexual activity comes an increased incidence of high-risk behaviors such as:

  • Early sexual intercourse (before the age of 13 years)
  • Multiple sexual partners (history of 4 or more lifetime partners)
  • Inconsistent condom and contraceptive use
  • Drug or alcohol use prior to sex

Research suggests that several key factors have a significant influence on sexual decision-making including: substance use prior to sex, depression and low self-esteem, homelessness, school failure, sexting, and history of abuse and dating violence. Our nation’s public health institutions have recognized the need to improve adolescent health care in the United States and are calling attention to this important issue. The Institute of Medicine (IOM), National Research Council, Pediatric Health 2011 Report concluded that “improving health outcomes for adolescents is essential to achieving a healthy future for the nation.”

In 2014, the Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that reported one-third of all adolescent health maintenance exams were completed without any discussion of sexual health. For those providers who did introduce the subject, an average of 36 seconds was spent discussing sexual health. It was concluded that strategies need to be utilized to engage adolescents in open discussions around sexuality, promoting healthy sexual development and decision-making:

  • Prioritize adolescent sexual health and ensure that all adolescents are screened and counseled on their risk behaviors using standardized, validated tools – according to nationally-recognized guidelines;
  • Become educated and aware of the inter-relationship between adolescent sexual health, high risk behaviors, and other population disparities;
  • Participate in continuing education on effective adolescent counseling strategies that will actively engage youth in the behavior change process (such as Motivational Interviewing);
  • Develop policies and processes to ensure adolescent engagement and comfort with disclosure of sexual feelings, behaviors and experiences; and
  • Address necessary workflow modifications to ensure risk screening and behavioral counseling is consistently incorporated.

To learn more about the disparities and behaviors that contribute most to sexual risk and how primary care practices and school-based health centers can meet the needs of adolescents to positively impact their sexual health, download and view the recorded webinar.

How do you talk to adolescents about safe sex decisions? Share your experiences in the comments below!

Spotlight: RAAPS 2.0!

Happy New Year! At Possibilities for Change, we couldn’t be more thrilled about all the exciting developments 2016 has in store! For our first blog post of the new year we’d like to share with you the new and improved RAAPS 2.0. In the spirit of continual improvement, we have been pouring over user feedback. Taking what we learned from your suggestions we have developed and implemented new features that will help to tailor the 2.0 system to your clients’ individual needs. Over the next few months we will unpack these new features for you to better showcase their benefit to the RAAPS system and, ultimately, you!

The first of these new features we’d like to shine our spotlight on is our new counselor interface with tailored dashboard. This interface will provide counselors with a comprehensive view of the risk behaviors of the adolescents’ they see. The dashboard comes complete with an overview of previous and current risk behavior responses from individual teens, messages tailored to support your counseling on the specific, identified risk behaviors, and a section to log behavior change goals discussed as part of your risk reduction counseling.

So, why is this important?

Well, at Possibilities for Change we recognize health and wellness professionals have heavy caseloads. We also recognize that each individual adolescent is unique. Our new counselor interface with tailored dashboard promotes efficiency and quality, individualized care. Counselors now have one location where they can view and log all relevant risk behavior information for specific clients as well as access evidence-based information and messages customized to suit their clients’ needs.

We could talk for hours about all of the new benefits we’ve built into RAAPS 2.0 but we’d rather you check out the improvements for yourself – after all, your feedback fueled the change!

If you’d like to check out RAAPS 2.0, now is the perfect time! Please contact us to set up a demo. We can’t wait to walk you through the new system and its user friendly features.

Continual Quality Improvement – For You! (And the youth and young adults you work with.)

Health and wellness professionals are in constant pursuit of quality improvement. And we’re here to support your efforts.  Possibilities for Change – the parent company for RAAPS – is implementing several new improvements to help make the identification and reduction of risk behaviors even easier and more effective:

Coming Soon:  RAAPS 2.0 – A new platform, new look and feel – and most importantly, new features!

We’re in the final phases of development on a new platform for the RAAPS system.  While the original features that made RAAPS so effective will still be there, we’re adding functionality designed to make the system even more engaging and user-friendly.  Just a few of these new features:

New Counselor Interface with a Tailored Dashboard: The upgraded system will provide counselors with a view of just the youth or young adults that they are managing – to facilitate risk management and referral tracking.  After selecting an individual, the counselor can see a full dashboard just for that patient which provides a comprehensive but easy to use overview, including any:

– Previously identified risks and/or newly identified risks (and the changes over time)
– Evidence-base messages to support counseling for those risks
– Behavior change goals that were discussed, and brief summaries of logged notes from current and previous sessions

In addition, shortly after the platform launch, two new counselor-support modules will be available for smoking cessation and sexual health counseling.

Full optimization for all internet-enabled devices – RAAPS has always made it engaging for youth and young adults to complete the survey via a laptop or hand-held tablet in the waiting room (allowing the counselor to know critical risks before the appointment begins).  And now the RAAPS survey can be easily completed via smartphone (a must-have accessory for our younger generation).

Upgraded reporting and administration– RAAPS individual and population based risk tracking and outcomes reporting will be enhanced with new easy to read, “at-a-glance” formats, complete with charts and several new built-in reports – which were selected based on user feedback.  The administrative interface will be upgraded to allow multiple levels of administrative access – and the designation and tracking of multiple groups or sites within an organization.

The transition for current RAAPS users should be smooth – with minimal training required. We’re expecting to launch the new platform by mid-May – and will be reaching out to all current users with educational materials (including a step-by-step user guide and a training webinar) in the next few weeks.

If you’ve been thinking about using RAAPS – now is the perfect time! Please contact us to set up a demo and we’ll be happy to walk you through the new system and features.

Celebrating Your Success: A Note of Appreciation

As we give thanks and prepare to celebrate the new year – we wanted to take a moment to appreciate you and the lives you’ve changed.  Together in the last year alone, RAAPS was used by SBHCs, University Health Centers, pediatricians and healthcare providers across the globe to:

  • – Screen nearly 30,000 adolescents and young adults for risk
  • – Identify and counsel:
    • – 6117 patients at risk for suicide and depression
    • – 2836 patients carrying weapons for protection
    • – 7359 patients who were sexually active
    • – 2488 patients who were victims of sexual violence or in abusive relationships
    • – Successfully improve the healthcare and quality of life among underserved youth
    • – And achieve positive outcomes of: increased exercise, improved eating habits, and reductions in distracted driving and drug/alcohol use…

…and we’re just getting started. Possibilities for Change (the parent company to RAAPS) was founded on the philosophy attributed to Mahatma Gandi:  “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”  Thank you for your hard work in bringing that philosophy to life by saving and improving the lives of our youth and young adults!

We’re looking forward to what we can accomplish together in the future!