Remembering Doug Kirby

Douglas Kirby

Douglas Kirby

On Wednesday, March 25, family, friends, and colleagues gathered to remember Douglas Kirby, PhD, after his passing, Saturday, December 22, 2012. The service provided the opportunity for friends to share memories and anecdotes about Doug. Below are some excerpts from the tributes, with links to video clips, as well.

Pat Paluzzi, President and CEO, Healthy Teen Network, remembers Doug  as a researcher; humorous, warm, and generous colleague; and a family man: “I’ve never heard anybody make research as accessible as that man did in that moment.” (Video)

Rev. Debra W. Haffner, President, Religious Institute, Inc., gives a liturgy in honor of Doug and his love for life:

  • “We’re here to share with each other our loss of this amazing man who we all know died doing what he loved—climbing one of the highest mountains in the world, stopping for a glass of water (or actually probably a drink from a canteen of some kind), looking out at that moonlit vista, and then explaining, in Doug-like fashion, ‘Isn’t life great?’”
  • “I have been awed by how many people considered Doug to be one of their closest friends.” (Video)

Robert Blum, William H. Gates Sr. Chair, Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, recalls first meeting Doug and forming a close friendship, as well as Doug’s dedication to both nature and data-driven advocacy:

  • “He would say, ‘no really, what I really, really want to know…’ And that was one of the characteristics that made him so wonderful, was that he was intent on knowing what you knew, but he was much more intent on knowing who you were.”
  • “That path was later named for him because of his passionate dedication to clearing it and establishing it, and I have rarely seen pride and joy and the love of nature as reflected in that man’s eyes as we walked down that path.”
  • “Doug was profoundly, intellectually honest and profoundly meticulous. Data drove his advocacy; advocacy did not drive his data, nor his research.  And because of that, and of because of who he was as a person, he bridged a broad political divide.  He was able to connect with people whose fundamental orientation was very, very different than his.” (Video)

Sarah Brown, CEO, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, recognizes the tremendous contribution Doug made to the adolescent sexual and reproductive health field, beginning almost two decades ago, in his research to answer the common question, “What works?”:

  • “He developed a systematic, data-driven way to answer a simple question that many of us in this room are asked all the time: ‘What works?  What should we do?’ That is, what community or classroom intervention or policy actually might help reduce teen pregnancy, STDs, HIV.”
  • “Doug walked fearlessly into the tangled underbush of intervention evaluation and emerged with specific conclusions and crisp guidance…It’s important to remember that Doug was the pioneer list-maker in our field, the first to take a clear eye to the available research, to articulate points of consensus, and to recommend reasonable next steps.”
  • Every time I hear the phrase ‘evidence-based programs,’ I think of Doug.” (Video)

John Santelli, Department Chair, Population and Family Health, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, shares how Doug was always there for him as a friend, to offer supportive and wise advice: “He contributed enormously. He believed in science, we’ve all said that, but he really believed in adolescents. And why did he do all this work? He had a zest for life, and he really cared about adolescents. He wanted to do the work for the youth of the planet.” (Video)

Lori Rolleri, Independent Public Health Consultant, remembers her mentor and friend and the effect his amazing research has had on people and the field of adolescent reproductive health research: “I realized that Doug’s career was all about asking big questions and finding answers, or at least being on the lookout for those emerging answers.  I think Doug took on answering big questions for two reasons.  First, he was a skilled researcher with an insatiable sense of curiosity.  And second, he wanted to find answers that he could share with people on the ground that were doing the important work for people in need.  Much of what Doug accomplished in the last two decades of his career made adolescent reproductive health research understandable and usable by thousands of practitioners, researchers, and policymakers.” (Video)

The touching stories shared by these planned speakers, as well as several other welcomed, spontaneous speakers, offered the opportunity for attendees to laugh and remember Doug. The warm memories and awe-inspiring anecdotes could only just begin to trace a picture of the amazing, loving, and dedicated man Doug was.

Advocates for Youth, Healthy Teen Network, and The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy partnered together to host this memorial  service.

Urge Your Members of Congress to Co-Sponsor Pregnant and Parenting Student Bill

young_woman_babyHealthy Teen Network and the National Women’s Law Center are co-leading an effort to improve graduation rates among pregnant and parenting youth by providing these students the necessary policy and resource supports to assist them in completing their high school educations prepared for college or careers. We are thrilled to report that U.S. Senator Tom Udall (New Mexico) and U.S. Representative Jared Polis (Colorado) have stepped forward in Congress to lead this charge by agreeing to introduce the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act (PPSAE).

These Members of Congress plan to introduce their bills in May. They have invited their Senate and House colleagues to join their legislation as co-sponsors. And that won’t happen unless Senators and Representatives hear that the educational success of pregnant and parenting youth matters to constituents back home!

Healthy Teen Network urges our members and supporters to weigh-in in support of this legislation of unique importance to the pregnant and parenting teens over whom we take special responsibility. Take action today and assist us in building local and statewide support for the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act. Write Your Senators and Representatives now using this automated, customizable action message for individuals and organization representatives to generate messages to your Members of Congress in the matter of a few key strokes. Any individual can take this action, which takes five minutes or less. Also, please distribute the link to the young people you support, your colleagues, and your friends and ask them to take action also.

Help spread the word on social media! Sample Facebook status updates and Tweets you can use to share this action alert with your networks:

TAKE ACTION: Urge your members of Congress to co-sponsor Pregnant and Parenting Student Bill! #PPSAE

ACT NOW to ensure access to education for pregnant & parenting teens! #PPSAE 

Help improve graduation rates among pregnant and parenting youth! #PPSAE

Join the Roster of Organizations Supporting the PPSAE Act–Healthy Teen Network and National Women’s Law Center are orchestrating a sign-on letter for national, state, regional, and local organizations of all types to demonstrate support for the Pregnant and Parenting Students Access to Education Act. To join the letter, send your organization name and contact information to Bob Reeg, Healthy Teen Network Senior Policy Analyst. Please consider forwarding this sign-on request to other organizations that have an interest in marginalized youth and young families.

President’s FY 2014 Budget Request Unveiled

Bob Reeg

Bob Reeg

President Obama has submitted to Congress his budget request for fiscal year 2014. The annual President’s Budget represents the Administration’s stance on the overall size, scope, and long-term trajectory of the federal government budget as well as the executive branch’s desired spending levels for all federal programs for the upcoming federal fiscal year (which commences each year on October 1).  Finally, the release of the President’s Budget kicks off Congress’s deliberations on annual appropriations for federal programs.  Such deliberations will begin in haste, now that the President’s Budget is available for Congressional review.

Healthy Teen Network supports a robust federal government funded at full capacity to ensure full health and high-quality of life of all Americans. We pay particular attention to and advocate in support of a range of sexual and reproductive health services programs.  For FY 2014, the President’s Budget recommends appropriations for these sexual and reproductive health services programs at the following levels:

  • Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI): $104.6 million, a restoration of $5.4 million lost to TPPI due to the sequestration of FY 2013 appropriations.
  • Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP): $82 million in FY 2014, the sum of the mandated annual appropriation of $75 million to PREP plus the re-obligation of $5 million in unspent PREP funds. The President’s Budget would restore $3.8 million lost to PREP due to the sequestration of FY 2013 appropriations.
  • CDC Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH): $32.4 million, roughly level to the FY 2012 appropriation.
  • Pregnancy Assistance Fund (PAF): $25 million, the mandated annual appropriation level for this program.
  • Maternal and Child Health Block Grant: $369 million, level funding with FY 2012 and a certain increase over the FY 2013 appropriation due to sequestration.
  • Home Visiting: $400 million, a scheduled increase of $50 million above the FY 2013 mandated annual appropriation to the Maternal, Infant, and Early Child Home Visiting Program.
  • Title X Family Planning Services: $327 million, an increase of $34 million above the FY 2012 enacted level.

The President’s Budget proposes to eliminate the Competitive Abstinence Education Grant Program (currently funded at $5 million) and to permit the transfer of $13 million in mandated state abstinence education dollars unclaimed by states declining to accept such funds toward a teen pregnancy prevention competitive grant program focused on youth in foster care.

For additional information on the President’s Budget request for FY 2014 and background information on each of the federal programs above, view these in-depth budget resources:

Bob Reeg is the Senior Policy Analyst at Healthy Teen Network.

Teen Pregnancy Rates among LGBTQ Youth Might Be Higher Than You Would Expect

Alia Gehr-Seloover

Alia Gehr-Seloover

In working with LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning) populations over the years, I’ve noticed that is has been widely assumed that these youth don’t require pregnancy prevention education. In fact, this population is two to seven times more likely than heterosexual youth to be involved in a pregnancy. This is a larger issue when looking at the ways in which LGBTQ youth are treated in their communities. It is also indicative of the types of sexual health education taught in this country throughout many different forums.

With an average of 12-17% of LGBTQ teens involved in a pregnancy, compared to an average of 2-5% of heterosexual teens, the question of why these numbers are so drastically different begs to be asked.

Statistically, LGBTQ young people experience elevated rates of discrimination, with eight of 10 LGBTQ teens stating that they have been harassed or abused as a result of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Discrimination isn’t just occurring at school–while incidences of family rejection have decreased over the last decade, and more families are accepting of their LGBTQ children, 26% of LGBTQ youth are told to leave home. In fact, according to the 2006 National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Executive Summary, “of the estimated 1.6 million homeless American youth, between 20 and 40 percent identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT).” These types of prejudices lead to higher use of drugs and alcohol, a heightened incidence of depression and suicide, and an increased likelihood of participation in risky sexual behaviors, including survival sex (sex for shelter, food, clothing, etc.).

LGBTQ youth who feel stigmatized may also strive to appear ‘normal’ or ‘heterosexual’, participating in ‘heterosexual sexual activities’ to pass as straight. This becomes an issue when we observe the way sexual health education is presented. In the majority of educational atmospheres, sexual education is focused around heterosexuals, minimizing inclusion of the LGBTQ community, and their need for comprehensive sexual health education. The result is that many LGBTQ identified teens who do participate in ‘heterosexual sexual activities’ may not feel that the sexual health education offered pertains to them, or may not pay attention to the biased education presented.

In my experiences with LGBTQ youth, the one criticism that many voice is that they never received sex education that resonated with them, and in sitting in a classroom they may zone out or stop paying attention. Other youth that I have spent time with have mentioned that while they identify as gay, it isn’t easy to find someone to date–many will go out with people of another sex because they want something to do, or someone to spend time with.

It is important to understand that many LGBTQ adolescents are happy, safe, and feel that they are receiving the education, resources, and access to health materials that they need to thrive. It is also essential that we recognize that for those who don’t feel this way, there are ways that we can work together to change this.

What can we do to help?

  • Educators must work with their schools and districts to include LGBTQ inclusive health education, using terms referring to body parts rather than relationship types and persons involved: penis, vagina, anus, etc., rather than man or woman.
  • Discuss with LGBTQ youth various self-care methods, community resources, and ways in which they can involve themselves with accepting individuals and groups.
  • Parents and teachers need to work together to accept LGBTQ youth. It’s important that they know that they are cared for, and loved no matter what the outside world thinks.
  • It is crucial to educate students in appropriate behaviors; ensuring that efforts to diminish bullying and discrimination are taken seriously and those students who choose to participate in bullying behaviors will face negative repercussions.

What other ways can we ensure that LBGTQ youth are receiving the education, resources, and access to health materials that they need to thrive?

Alia A. Gehr-Seloover is the LGBTQ Health Coordinator, Healthcorps Navigator, at Institute for Family Health.

Healthy Teen Network Applauds Decision to Increase Access to Over the Counter Emergency Contraception

Today, Judge Edward R. Korman of Federal District Court ruled that the government must make the most common morning-after pill available over the counter for all ages, instead of requiring a prescription for girls 16 and younger. According to the New York Times, “[Korman] also accused the federal government of ‘bad faith’ in dealing with the requests to make the pill universally available.” His ruling counteracts Health and Human Services secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ unprecedented overruling of an FDA recommendation to make the pill available over the counter to all ages in 2011.

Emergency contraception is most effective if used within the first 24 hours following sexual activity. The time sensitive nature of its effectiveness makes widespread availability a critical issue for all women and men. Without over the counter access to emergency contraception, those 17 and older are dependent on pharmacist availability (to verify age), and those 16 and younger are dependent on first obtaining a prescription, as well as pharmacist availability. Increased access to emergency contraception could reduce the number of unintended and/or terminated pregnancies that occur in this country each year. Therefore, emergency contraception should be widely and easily available to all whom can safely use it. The lifting of these age restrictions—which the judge ordered to happen within 30 days of today’s ruling—is a major victory for those who have advocated for this access for many years.

“Critics have expressed concern that adolescents’ access to and use of emergency contraception will increase sexual promiscuity and risky sexual behavior, however, research has shown that this is not the case,” says Healthy Teen Network President/CEO Pat Paluzzi. “We are pleased that the judge’s ruling will allow young people to have easy access to emergency contraception and hope to see teen pregnancy and abortion rates continue to decrease as a result.”

What We Can Learn from the Steubenville Media Circus

Alexandra Eisler

Alexandra Eisler

Eleven years ago, I was a high school senior and about the same age as the boys in Steubenville, OH, who last week were found delinquent (the juvenile court version of “guilty”) of sexual assault and distributing nude photos of an acquaintance. I remember being their classmates’ age and trying to figure out (like they are now) how to be an adult and learning what it meant to make adult decisions like how to handle alcohol and drugs, sex, and my friends.

I remember being told that if you didn’t want to have sex, you were to very loudly and very clearly say, “NO! I do NOT want to have sex with you!” Which, while probably effective, at the time didn’t seem practical when you factor in the social codes that go along with maintaining friendships and learning how to date. What that message did reveal to me was a nasty grey area: If someone doesn’t say the word “no,” then is he/she saying “yes”?  (And we’re not talking only about women: data show a surprisingly high number of men report being sexually assaulted.)

Clearly, these young men were found delinquent and are headed to detention, but many messages circulating about their crime are disgusting: their coach told them “not to worry about it”; the media seems more focused on the ruin of the boys’ “promising careers” than the friend they violated; and we’ve heard an awful lot about how drunk the victim was and whether or not she had previously hooked up with someone.  If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’ve been hearing this in heavy rotation.

The Steubenville case illuminates how our stunted understanding of consent makes it impossible for young people to learn what it means to give consent and to get consent–most of these students’ classmates didn’t realize something bad was happening, so they recorded it for fun. (Wait. What?!)

When we talk about sexual health, we talk about anatomy, STIs, pregnancy, HIV, and how to say “no” to sex when we don’t want to have it. The problem with that list is, in addition to learning facts about our bodies, it puts the responsibility for consent solely on the person who doesn’t want to have sex rather than pointing out how partners can pay attention to each other. “No” comes in many forms.

This is where we need to change our dialogue. We need to recognize that sex is supposed to be fun; it’s not a game that someone wins (…and therefore one that someone loses). We’re talking about human relationships and the practice of valuing other people’s lives. To raise generations of compassionate, kind human beings, we must show those around us what that looks like—and that includes discussions of sexual expression.

We can start very young, as young as one year old, and to be successful we can’t ever stop the conversation.

How do you talk about consent?

Alexandra Eisler is a Training and TA Coordinator at Healthy Teen Network.

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