My Body, My Health: Young Women Planning Ahead
Tags: family planning, long acting reversible contraception, Prevention, Reproductive Justice, The L.A. Trust, Wellness Centers
Categories: Adolescent health care, health care, Healthy Eating, Leadership, Reproductive Justice, Teen pregnancy prevention, Wellness Centers, Youth Advisory Board
by Rosario Rico, MPH, Research and Program Manager, The L.A. Trust
Do you remember how old you were when you started thinking of starting your own family? For many people they know it’s after college. For others, it may be sooner than that. Regardless of when people see themselves starting a family, it’s important for people to start having a conversation as early as possible. In the past two months due to low female student clinic visits an idea was given by our Youth Advisory Board (YAB) to do a young women’s health presentation. The YAB members knew we had to be strategic about the students we should target, so they figured that we should focus on junior and senior females. I thought this was a great idea and felt this could possibly be one of the solutions to increasing student visits.
As I started to create the “My Body, My Health” presentation I had to put my teen thinking hat on to make sure teens would be interested. I also started reflecting on my own journey and how when I was in high school, I thought, by waiting to start a family until I was 21, that would mean that I was doing well and did not fall into the stereotype of being a teen mom. However, even though I was in a serious relationship with my then boyfriend (and now husband ) I remember turning 21 and saying, “What was I thinking? I am so not ready to start a family. I want to do so much still, like travel and start grad school.” This memory prompted me to start my presentation with #Lifegoals. While I was researching youth social media accounts, I saw many using hashtag goals to signify what they want in their life. Many used #relationshipgoals when referring to the famous couple Beyonce and Jay-Z. Others used #futuredoctor when they liked something that reminded them of their career goals. What I discovered was that a lot of students do think about what goals they want to accomplish in the future, but when I asked how many have actually talked to someone about those goals or when they see themselves starting a family, only 2-4 students raised their hand.
With the help of YAB members I have now presented at 6 schools with an average audience of 25 female students. I have been impressed with the amount of interest on this topic so far. The presentation is about 25 minutes long and we talk about when they see themselves starting a family and what goals would they like to accomplish before doing so. We discuss other goals that they may want to consider before starting a family, like traveling, finishing college and saving X amount of money. Along with this discussion we talked about the importance of staying healthy and creating healthy behaviors now to help when they become ready. For example, making sure they eat enough fruits and vegetables, using the 95210 model (9 hours of sleep, 5 servings of fruits/veggies, 2 hours of screen time and 1 hour of exercise and 0 sugary beverages). We also discussed the importance of starting this conversation with their doctor through their routine checks that they should get on a yearly basis. In addition, thinking ahead about talking to their providers about contraceptive methods that my help them stay on track of their lifegoals by using long-acting reversible contraceptives.
According to the CDC, 52% of the US pregnancies are unplanned, which means that the majority of women in the United States are not planning their families. It’s important that today’s youth are thinking ahead. Even if they don’t see themselves starting a family soon, they should at least start thinking of how they can remain healthy as they go off to college and start a new journey after high school. Fortunately, due to high interest in this topic, we’ve had a couple more requests for these presentations, and those have resulted in visits and appointments with the Wellness Centers directly after the presentation.
We plan on continuing these presentations this semester in hopes that we will continue to see an increase in student visits to our Wellness Centers. The planning and coordination of these presentations could not have happened without the support of our fabulous YAB members who have taken the lead in promoting them on campus. Big kudos to our healthy start staff as well as they have also stepped up and supported the YAB students with important details like finding a classrooms in which to hold the presentations.
Even if we don’t see a dramatic increase in student visits to the Wellness Centers, I am pleased that the students have been interested and that, together, we have at least started this conversation.