Tag: teens

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.

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!

Lack of resources from university health centers are turning away students from seeking mental health

One in 4 college students deal with some kind of mental health issue. Colleges across the country say they’re there to help, but the TODAY show’s six-month investigation from 22 students at 10 different universities revealed that students are getting kicked out of college for seeking help. Could the reason for this be the lack of resources from university health centers?

The coverage tells the story of Jasmine, a student at the University of Chicago, who began struggling with depression and went to seek help at the school’s counseling center. Unequipped and unprepared to handle her situation, they sent her off to the hospital where she was kept for two weeks. She returned to school forced to sign a contract that asked her to leave campus immediately. This forced mental leave is making its way to headlines of college campus newspapers all over the country. The narrative seems to be that students are reluctant to seek help at college counseling centers to risk the embarrassing and harsh reality of being sent home against their will.

This poses a very important question. What message are we sending students? It’s a message filled with fear of being sent to the psychiatric ward and kicked out of school. Only 60% of students struggling actually end up seeking help, but recent data collected by the Center for Collegiate Mental Health at Penn State University at 139 college and university counseling centers, from 2009-2010 through 2014-2015, reflects “slow but consistent” growth in students reporting depression, anxiety and social anxiety. And 20% of students seeking mental health treatment are taking up about half of all campus counseling center appointments.

While there are certainly growing concerns over other mental health issues affecting college students today, it’s safe to presume that a major issue in this situation is the lack of resources from university health centers to screen, identify and reduce risky behaviors. According to CDC data, risky behaviors are the primary cause of morbidity and mortality among adolescents and young adults. This is especially relevant for college students who are experiencing a new freedom and engaging in developmentally appropriate (but often risky) experimental behavior. The need is clear: effective preventive care for this age group must include accurate and consistent risk identification and behavior change counseling.

Many institutions launch annual campus-wide surveys to assess student alcohol use and required surveys such as Title IX sexual violence “climate” surveys. These surveys play a critical role in understanding health risks of students, and help to direct programming funds. However, for the student struggling with a specific issue such as depression, or sexual assault, there is no opportunity to disclosure their issues and receive intervention or follow-up—a missed opportunity with the potential for significant impact on the student’s health, quality of life, and academic success. Identifiable campus-wide surveys provide insight for the institution – and actionable intervention for the student before their issues grow to an unmanageable level.

Consistent and early identification and reduction of student risk behaviors is critical for University Health Centers. If we can better equip professionals at universities and colleges with the tools they need for early identification of students in need, we can shift the message we’re sending from fear to hope. Developed by experts and vetted by young adults, RAAPS and ACT tools address these issues and more, in language students relate to, in an online format, which allows students to feel comfortable answering honestly across the range of risk topics.

Universities are desperate for technology that helps identify risks and secures accurate data in a timely fashion. Universities and colleges face a unique challenge—caring for the physical and mental health of students and providing a safe environment that supports academic achievement, all with limited time and budgets.

An article from the Huffington Post says, “The campus centers are continually understaffed because their budgets are often based on some kind of historical calculation of the number of students enrolled and previous rates of students requesting appointments.”

These are serious issues. We hope you will join us in working together to ensure that all of the students in your population are screened for risky behaviors that impact their health and academic success. Don’t grapple with these issues alone. You have the opportunity to make a real and lasting positive change in your student’s health and your institution’s financial bottom line.

What are the next steps?

Download the Risky Business on Campus eBook to explore the top 10 considerations for identifying risk behaviors of college students and to find out how you can enhance your services to save a life.

36 seconds.

According to a JAMA Pediatrics study, that’s how long the average conversation lasted when teens were asked about sexual health during their last annual health maintenance exam. Even more disappointing, the topic was not discussed with 1 out of 3 teens.

I could continue on with more data that supports the adverse reality, but I think it’s time to pause and evaluate. As health care professionals, we have the responsibility to educate, equip and inform our young people when it comes to their sexual health. We play a critical role in further reducing teen pregnancy rates and STIs through the care we provide to adolescent patients.

That’s where our newly developed technology comes in. Launched in February and funded in part by the National Institutes of Health, ACT for Sexual Health was created to provide a safe environment for teens to disclose risky sexual behaviors that will translate into a proactive plan for reproductive health and safer sex—with an end goal of reducing individual STI and pregnancy risk.

The self-paced module engages teens with interactive, evidence-based risk behavior assessment and counseling to gather honest data. The ACT works either independently or with the RAAPS assessment, and provides youth with technology-based behavior counseling, education, behavior change strategies, and a risk-reduction plan tailored to the youth’s stage of change.

One of our favorite product characteristics is the ongoing dialogue. To provide support between visits, an online portal and text messaging option is available to help keep teens on the right track.

ACT for Sexual Health will develop a comprehensive sexual health history, identifying risky behaviors such as:

  • Early onset of sexual activity
  • Multiple sexual partners
  • Not using a condom during last intercourse
  • Not using contraceptives
  • Using drugs or alcohol prior to sex

What are you waiting for? Let’s talk about sex! Click here to read more information about ACT for Sexual Health or schedule a free 20-minute demo.

 

Summer Lovin’ = Sun screen + Sex screen

In reality – every day is a good day to screen teens for high risk sexual behaviors.  But this summer why not include sexual health screening along with your usual season-specific preventive advice?

We know identifying high risk sexual health behaviors and successfully intervening can be a challenge in this age group. So we developed RAAPS Sexual Health Risk Assessment (RAAPS SH) to make it easier to identify:

  • – The early onset of sexual activity
  • – Multiple sexual partners
  • – Not using a condom during last intercourse
  • – Not using contraceptives
  • – Or using drugs or alcohol prior to sex

But not all of the behaviors that identify the youth who are highest sexual risk are actually sexual behaviors. With RAAPS SH the adolescents most at-risk in their sexual health can be identified by their contributing risk behaviors such as depression, history of abuse and academic struggles.   

In a quality improvement project for disadvantaged youth being administered by the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDHC) the RAAPS SH revealed disturbing findings on these inter-related risk behaviors, including:

  • – 15% of surveyed youth have been homeless in the last 12 months
  • – 66% have been suspended
  • – 23% report depressive feelings
  • – 22% received or sent sexual messages on their phone or the internet
  • – 70% have had sex in the past 3 months…
  • – …and 40% failed to use a condom the last time they had sex

Designed especially for the unique needs of sexually active adolescents – and the providers who work with them, RAAPS-SH also minimizes workflow impact, supports your counseling efforts, and helps you meet evidence-based guidelines, Title X, and performance-based billing requirements.

Contact us for more information about this unique system. Or register to watch our recorded webinar entitled “Protecting Sexually Active Teens…” for additional information about the MDCH project, sexual health disparities, and the complex web of inter-related risk factors influencing risky sexual behavior in adolescents.