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New York launches
sexual health initiative for teens

New York launches
sexual health initiative for teens

City program aims to improve sexual and reproductive health services for teens.

The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has launched the Healthy Teens Initiative, which aims to make sexual and reproductive health care services more accessible to teenagers in the city. The heart of the program is a new toolkit called "Seven Steps to Provide Comprehensive Sexual and Reproductive Health Care to Adolescents in New York City," which will be available to all health care providers in New York. The toolkit outlines how providers can strengthen services and make them more teen-friendly. The health department also will offer customized training sessions on how to implement toolkit recommendations.

The program already has kicked off in the Bronx and will soon expand to the city's remaining four boroughs, health officials say.

Health department data collected over the past few years led officials to conclude that New York City teens are not getting adequate sexual and reproductive health care services. Data show that nearly half of all public high school students in the city have had sexual intercourse, with 20% of those having had sex before age 13; that teenage females account for about one third of all chlamydia and gonorrhea infections in the city; and that most of the city's teens do not regularly use birth control, including condoms.

"We want to support teenagers in making make good choices about their health and sexuality," health commissioner Thomas R. Frieden said in a statement. "Not all teenagers choose to become sexually active, and we should encourage those who choose to wait. For teenagers who choose to have sex, access to care is essential in preventing pregnancy and STDs. Services that are confidential and teen-friendly help our teenagers stay healthy."

The seven steps in the new guidelines for health care providers include:

* Guaranteeing confidentiality and adolescents' rights to consent to sexual and reproductive health care;

* Making services accessible and facilities welcoming for teens;

* Delivering care that is sensitive to each client's culture, ethnicity, community values, religion, language, educational level, sex, gender, and sexual orientation;

* Screening all adolescents for sexual and reproductive health issues, substance use, and mental health concerns, and providing appropriate care or referrals;

* Providing risk-reduction counseling and education to every adolescent;

* Providing contraceptive methods, including emergency contraception, to adolescents at risk for pregnancy;

* Offering information, assistance, and support for all decisions regarding pregnancy. (The Advocate)

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