Public Health Community Advisory – Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) are an ongoing, significant problem in Douglas County. Since 1998, rates of Chlamydia and Gonorrhea in Douglas County have been substantially higher than state and national rates. There is also significant age and racial/ethnic disparities in STD rates in Douglas County. Youth ages 15-24 have the highest STD rates of all age groups, and STD rates are 10 times higher for African Americans than for Whites. Given the potential for serious and long-term complications from Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, including increased HIV risk and infertility, identifying and implementing effective interventions is critical.
In 2013, Dr. Melissa Tibbits began working with the Women’s Fund of Omaha and other community stakeholders to gather data about teen pregnancy and STDs. This work included conducting a literature review to determine national trends and effective prevention strategies, conducting a local environmental scan to determine local trends and prevention practices, and providing recommendations about how to align local practices with best practices in STD prevention and treatment.
The Women’s Fund of Omaha used this information to develop the Adolescent Health Project in January of 2015. The Adolescent Project utilizes a variety of interventions focused on STD prevention and treatment in order to achieve collective impact. These strategies include: (1) a community-wide media campaign focused on increasing knowledge about STDs and reducing stigma; (2) the GetCheckedOmaha website http://getcheckedomaha.com/stds-in-omaha/ and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/GetCheckedOmaha, which provide general information about STDs and local testing and treatment services; (3) a United Way STD information hotline, which provides information about local STD testing and treatment services; (4) community outreach and training, such as providing STD education at community events; (5), $2.6 million in funding to six health care organizations to make STD services more accessible and youth friendly; (6) community-wide condom distribution; (7) a partnership with Omaha Community Schools focusing on ensuring best practices in comprehensive sex education are implemented in the Human Growth & Development course; and (8) and a Learning Collaborative, which brings together executives from all six funded health care organizations, Adolescent Health Project staff, and the evaluation team once per month to discuss topics such as common principles, collaboration, and shared vision.
Dr. Tibbits continues to participate in the Adolescent Health Project as the principal investigator for the outcome evaluation. In this role, she continually collects and reports data to stakeholders in order to inform the development, refinement, and implementation of Adolescent Health Project initiatives.
Although it is too soon to report the impact of the Adolescent Health Project on reducing STD rates in Douglas County, Dr. Tibbits is optimistic that the community-wide, collective impact approach combined with an emphasis on using data to inform and improve the project will result in positive outcomes.
This article was written by Melissa Tibbits, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Dept. of Health Promotion, Social & Behavioral Health, College of Public Health, University of Nebraska Medical Center.