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Emory awarded $3.2 million grant to develop sexual health intervention for high risk teens

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Janet Christenbury

Emory University School of Medicine's Jane Fonda Center will partner with the Rollins School of Public Health and Grady Health System's Teen Services Clinic to design, implement and evaluate a clinic-based intervention to improve the use of "dual protection" in young African American females. The five-year, $3.2 million grant is a collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.      

"Dual protection means taking steps to prevent both unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV," says Melissa Kottke, MD, MPH, MBA, assistant professor in the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at Emory and principal investigator for this award. "This is a skill that all people need, but we know that teens and young adults carry a disproportionate burden of both unintended pregnancy and STDs and this is amplified for racial and ethnic minorities." 

Concretely encouraging teens to make a decision for dual protection and supporting them in being consistent in its use is essential, according to Kottke, who is also the director of the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health at Emory. "We hope this research opportunity will assist us in adapting the way clinical reproductive health services are provided to teens." 

Clinical reproductive health services include contraceptive counseling and providing contraception as well as STD/HIV screenings and treatment, but are often limited in how they can impact the behaviors of the teen outside the clinic itself.  

Jessica Sales, PhD, assistant professor of Behavioral Sciences and Health Education in the Rollins School of Public Health is the co-principal investigator for this initiative. "One of the most exciting aspects of this project is that it merges the best of health behavior research and clinical services," says Sales. "It will be rewarding to see the impact of providing cutting edge clinical care coupled with what we've seen can work from behavior change models."   

Researchers will spend the first year-and-a-half of the grant designing the intervention. They plan to enroll at least 700 sexually active young women, ages 15 to 19. Participants will be followed for one year after participating in the intervention.  

"Grady Health System's Teen Services Clinic recognizes that adolescence is a critical window of time to establish excellent health behaviors," says Fran Baker, RN, BSN, MBA, executive director of Women and Infant Services at Grady. "We see that reproductive health is linked to many other individual and community health issues and are looking forward to helping our young people succeed." 

About the Grady Teen Services Program:

The Grady Teen Services Program sees approximately 2,000 teens per year for reproductive health care. The program has been seeing teens for reproductive health for over four decades. It is supported by the Title X Family Planning Grant.

About the Jane Fonda Center:

The Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health opened its doors in 2000 with a lead gift from advocate and actor Jane Fonda. The center's mission is to advance scientific knowledge about teenagers with an emphasis on adolescent reproductive health. The center focuses on providing information and strategies for risk reduction and healthy transitions to adulthood.  

About Rollins School of Public Health:

At the Rollins School of Public Health, students learn to identify, analyze and intervene in today's most pressing public health issues. The school is part of Emory University's Woodruff Health Sciences Center, and its location in Atlanta, referred to as the "Public Health Capital of the World," also is home to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); CARE; the national home office of the American Cancer Society; The Carter Center; the Arthritis Foundation; and numerous state and regional health agencies. 

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