Health officials revamp teen program

The staff of SHIFT NC (Sexual Health Initiatives For Teens) is currently making changes to its teen health program. (Courtesy photo)

With pregnancy prevention going through changes, Sampson County health officials are working to improve their efforts as well.

The Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) recently announced that it’s changing its mission and changing its name to SHIFT NC (Sexual Health Initiatives For Teens). According to a news release, the organization has been North Carolina’s leader in adolescent pregnancy prevention, and works with communities, educators, clinicians, and families to adopt evidence-based approaches to teen pregnancy prevention. Since the 1990s, the state’s teen pregnancy rate has dropped 67 percent.

As SHIFT NC, the shift will expand its mission to “Leading North Carolina to improve adolescent and young adult sexual health.” SHIFT NC officials stated that the organization will continue to use strategies to improve health, but will expand the scope to include adolescent pregnancy, HIV/AIDS and STIs, sexuality, development, and relationships.

Kathie Johnson, director of nursing for the Sampson County Health Department, said all of the priorities being recognized in the program are already being addressed by agencies that provide teen pregnancy prevention services.

“There is no way a provider can focus on just teen pregnancy prevention without addressing the other issues and concerns that are also part of a teen’s life,” Johnson said.

Johnson said the topics include puberty, STIs, HIV, sexual relationships, physical development, sexual coercion, bullying, financial costs, implications of pregnancy, sexual concepts, myths, how to access health care and confidentially.

“Any or all these must be also addressed with each teen to help decrease teen pregnancies,” Johnson said.

With the change, Johnson hopes more resources will be available to help teenagers in the county to not only prevent pregnancy, but to decrease STI/HIV cases as well. While Sampson County’s number of teen pregnancies have been decreasing, the ranking has increased. Currently, Sampson County is seventh out of 100 counties in the number of teen pregnancies.

“We would very much like to be ranked 1ooth with teen pregnancies,” Johnson said. “The health department has always focused on all the concerns and issues that affect teen sexuality and pregnancy. Our STI/HIV rates are steadily increasing and this is also cause for concern.”

The Sampson County Health Department offers family planning services, which are free to all teenagers, 18 or younger. Some of them include the health department providing high school educational classes, free birth control methods and the annual teen health fair.

During an announcement in May, Kay Phillips, CEO of SHIFT NC, said the organizations methods will not change, but the purpose is to broaden their vision to make a more comprehensive impact on the health of young people.

“This is not a new beginning for us; we are building on a legacy of success,” Phillips said. “Nor is this a destination; we have a lot of work to do both on teen pregnancy and on other sexual health issues.”

In the near future, Phillips indicated that SHIFT NC will listen and see how they can be supportive of teen pregnancy prevention advocates.

“We need you to bear with us a little bit for the next month or so, becuase all the moving pieces of a name change can get tricky,” Phillips said. “But, ultimately, we look forward to working with you for the next 30 years so that every young person in North Carolina grows up healthy.”

Johnson said it would be great if additional funding and resources will be provided to local areas based on the changes.

“Sampson County is large rural area with limited transportation and it would be ideal if the health department and other teen prevention agencies could be able to expand services to help prevent teen pregnancies in our county.”

For more information about the change or health department services, call 910-592-1131, ext. 4240 or 4214.