As a part of our focus on adolescent sexual health and their access to sexual health services (SHS), NCSD and CAI (Cicatelli Associates Inc.) collaboratively developed the “Developing a Referral System for Sexual Health Services: An Implementation Tool Kit”. In Novemeber 2016, CDC signed on to co-brand these items.
According to 2013 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey data, 64% of students report having sexual intercourse by 12th grade, and 23% of all 12th grade students report having had 4 or more sexual partners. Furthermore, among sexually active students, only 60% of high school students report using condoms at last intercourse. While youth 15–24 years of age represent an estimated 14% of the total population, they accounted for over half of all new STD infection in 2012, with significant disparities in reported STD cases among black, Hispanic, and LGBTQ youth.
Healthy People 2020 has identified improving access to sexual health services (SHS) as “crucial” to eliminating disparities in reproductive health outcomes. Furthermore, in the United States, schools have direct contact with more than 15 million students attending grades 9–12 for at least 6 hours a day during key years of their social, physical, and intellectual development. After the family, schools are of one of the primary entities responsible for the development of young people.
Given their access to youth, the Nation’s schools can play a critical role in addressing these epidemics. Through the development and implementation of sustainable referral systems, schools can help realize Healthy People 2020 goals of increasing access to SHS by improving awareness of, and connecting sexually active adolescents to, adolescent-friendly school-based and community-based SHS.
Through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Adolescent and School Health FOA PS13-1308, Promoting Adolescent Health through School-Based HIV/STD Prevention and School-Based Surveillance, State Education Agencies (SEA) and Local Education Agencies (LEA) will partner with priority districts and schools, and other stakeholders, to develop a SHS referral system and associated protocols, resources, and tools that will effectively increase student access and connection to SHS.
The design of this implementation kit was informed by the Program 1308 Guidance: Supporting State and Local Education Agencies to Reduce Adolescent Sexual Risk Behaviors and Adverse Health Outcomes Associated with HIV, Other STD, and Teen Pregnancy, as well as evidence-based practices from the health and educational fields including key informant interviews with team members from Project Connect. Project Connect is an evidence-based health systems intervention implemented in schools and designed to increase the receipt of sexual and reproductive healthcare by at-risk youth. Please visit www.cdc.gov/std/projects/connect to access the Project Connect Implementation Guide and other related resources.