Memorial Regional Health: Smart sexual behavior begins with education — sexual education curriculum a focus for 2018-19 school year | CraigDailyPress.com

Memorial Regional Health: Smart sexual behavior begins with education — sexual education curriculum a focus for 2018-19 school year

Lauren Glendenning/Brought to you by Memorial Regional Health

Since the 2016 release of reports of increasing teen pregnancy rates in Moffat County, community leaders have been ramping up efforts to combat the issue by providing better education for local youth.

Memorial Regional Health has obtained a $10,000 grant from the Buell Foundation to help fund an afterschool program for the 2018-19 school year. The money will fund two nurses to train and implement the Reducing the Risk Program in the high school and middle school, said Dr. Elise Sullivan, a family medicine physician at Memorial Regional Health and a Moffat County School Board member.

"Moffat County School District is putting in a lot of effort currently to adopt a new curriculum for the in-school program, and providers from MRH will be in health classes to help teachers with the subject matter," she said.

The curriculum

Reducing the Risk is a curriculum designed to reduce sexual risk-taking behavior. It contains 16 sessions for a total of 13 hours of videos, exercises and other teaching methods, Sullivan said.

"It focuses on providing students with skills to manage peer pressure, challenge student norms about sexual behavior, increase students’ confidence in obtaining and using contraceptives and support parent-student communication about intercourse, contraceptives and abstinence," according to the program. "It also provides adolescents with more information about reproductive health, options for abstinence, birth control, and condoms and the potential consequences of risky sexual behaviors. It’s goal it is to reduce STI rates and teen pregnancies."

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Research shows that students who have gone through the program are more likely to delay sexual activity, have fewer sexual partners, use birth control, have positive attitudes toward safe sex and have conversations with their parents about sexual activity, birth control and sexually transmitted diseases.

Community resources

Kathy Bockelman, a Yampa Valley Pregnancy and Family Center Board member, is looking to create an organization for teens interested in being role models for abstinence. Middle- and high-school students interested in joining "Craig Youth for Change" can contact her at 970-‪314-8539.

Sullivan said it can be difficult to have conversations with children and adolescents about sexual behavior, but there are resources available with tips and advice for parents who need guidance.

For teens, resources such as kidshealth.org answer a lot of questions that might otherwise be uncomfortable or embarrassing to ask. Questions answered on the site include "Can a girl get pregnant if her periods are irregular?" or, "What if the condom breaks?"

The Building a Healthy You afterschool sessions will also occur again in middle school and high school to cover a wide range of topics, including reproductive health, healthy relationships, drug and alcohol use, depression and suicide.

"While it’s a brief, one-hour session, it allows kids to know the resources available in the community to help with these issues," Sullivan said.

Reducing the risk

In this curriculum, designed to reduce youth sexual risk-taking behavior, the following two key skills are taught.

  • Refusal skills – Responses that clearly say “no” in a manner that doesn’t jeopardize good relationships, but which leaves no ambiguity about the decision not to have sex or to refuse unprotected sex.
  • Delay tactics and alternative actions – Ways students can avoid a situation or delay taking action until they have had time to decide what to do or say, or until they are better prepared to make a decision.

Resources for parents and teens

Visit kidshealth.org for information about teen pregnancy. There are sections geared toward both parents and teens, including questions-and-answers about difficult topics.