by Sarah Stoesz
Planned Parenthood Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota Action Fund
The CDC’s latest Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) examines the sexual health of young adults and teenagers in the U.S., Reuters reports. "The data presented in this report indicate that many young persons in the United States engage in sexual risk behavior and experience negative reproductive health outcomes," the MMWR states (7/16). For the report, CDC compiled data from several different studies involving hundreds of thousands of teenagers and young adults age 10 to 25. Among other findings, the data indicated that AIDS rates among boys age 15 to 19 increased from 1.3 cases per 100,000 in 1997 to 2.5 cases in 2006.
MPR Midmorning had a compelling discussion today about the report and what should be done to address this troubling trend: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/radio/programs/midmorning/
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Unfortunately, many of the trends evidenced in the report are being seen right here in Minnesota.
Sexually transmitted infections have climbed to historic levels, with Chlamydia rates in the state more than doubling in the past thirteen years (a seven percent increase in the past year alone). In some communities of color, the situation is dire, as health care disparities have led to rates so high that the epidemic has become self-sustaining.
This is an unconscionable public health failure. It’s time for solutions. Minnesota’s young people deserve a balanced, honest approach to sexuality education in order to best make informed, responsible decisions that will preserve their health and well-being.
It’s a complex problem that requires comprehensive solutions; including:
• Support for parents as the primary sexuality educator of their children.
• Medically accurate sex education.
• Access to reproductive health care services.
• Youth development opportunities to engage young people in their community.
As parents, teachers and those working in public health, we have an obligation to simultaneously protect and empower youth by providing them with accurate, age appropriate fact-based sexuality education.
For the past two years, PPMNS has led the effort to advance legislation that would help to reverse this trend. Addressing this public health issue through common sense public policy, accessible health care and community relevant/responsible fact-based education is our priority.
PPMNS is proud to offer 10 education programs across the state of Minnesota for parents, teens, and community members that are grounded in research.
Our Parent-Child Programs support family communication and connectedness; our Teen Councils and Youth Peer Education Programs empower young people with the skills they need to make healthy choices, and our Adult Lay Health Advisor Programs teach adults how to be health care experts in their local communities.
We provide culturally relevant education and outreach services among Latino, Asian and African immigrant communities specifically designed to respond to cultural and linguistic barriers that often keep members of our communities from seeking the health care they need.
The latest report from the CDC underscores what many already know: teens need to know how to protect themselves against sexually transmitted infections. They need medically accurate and age appropriate information and access to preventative health care to build healthier, brighter futures.
Planned Parenthood will continue its work at the legislature, in our clinics and in communities across the state to address this public health and education imperative. Our young people deserve nothing less.