New Adolescent Health Toolkit Centers Equity
Meg Smith, MSW, LICSW, ACSW
Workforce Development Coordinator, Center for Trauma Care in Schools
A recently published research article, by Child Trends, a leading nonprofit research organization dedicated to improving outcomes for youth, has created a toolkit to promote adolescent sexual and reproductive health for use by family planning agencies working in school-based settings. The Toolkit was created to address the challenges identified through interviews with family planning providers and administrators, that included “being historically excluded from services, living in resource limited areas, fear of confidentiality, lack of adolescent-friendly and culturally sensitive practices in clinics.”
The toolkit is divided into two sections. The first section, Foundational Approaches for Providing Family Planning to Adolescents, describes four approaches to effective family planning care to youth. The four approaches are: 1) embedding equity, 2) prioritizing adolescent-friendly care, 3) maximizing outreach and access and 4) leveraging partnerships. Within each foundational approach, the toolkit provides real life examples from providers as well as resources to help integrate these approaches into the work within school-based setting. For example, within Embedding Equity, “Achieving equity requires paying attention to student outcomes and to how inclusive the processes in your clinic are…Improved clinical processes can impact patient care—and focusing on both is essential for school-based health centers (SBHCs) to impact equity. “.
The second section of the toolkit uses case study method. The method highlights four programs and describes the program in-depth and includes recommendations and resources to help others implement these approaches in their own setting. It uses an example of embedding a health resources coordinators within a school-based health center which allows the health coordinator to provide the school community with a variety of tailored services while fostering critical relationships with students and school staff. This case study example emphasizes helping youth develop both their health literacy-learning about their own health needs- and self-advocacy skills so they have a voice and choice in their own care.
The availability of this toolkit will help providers tailor reproductive health education and services that acknowledge the many health disparities for historically marginalized youth, including gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation in addition to race, ethnicity, culture and economics. Reducing these health disparities will require efforts on all who care for our youth -their families, health care professionals, school and community members.