Empowering Youth: Barbara Huberman

bhubermanHealthy Teen Network mourns the loss of a true advocate for youth, Barbara Huberman. Saturday, May 17, 2014, Barbara passed away peacefully, with her family by her side, after battling cancer. A legend in the field of adolescent sexual and reproductive health, Barbara dedicated her career, over a 50-year span, to empowering youth to lead healthy sexual and reproductive lives.

Barbara was a nurse, certified sexuality educator and counselor, and one of the first Lamaze childbirth instructors and trainers in the U.S. She was an accomplished author, publishing books, curricula, and tools on topics such as organizational sustainability, adolescent sexual and reproductive health, parent-child communication about sex, state councils on teen pregnancy prevention, and European approaches to adolescent sexuality. Well-known for founding the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) in the late 80s, Barbara also served as invaluable resource for Healthy Teen Network (then, the National Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Parenting, and Prevention, or NOAPPP) Board of Directors from 1987 to 1990.

Barbara played many other founding roles, as a board member for the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, as well as initiating two public education campaigns, National Month to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, held in May, and Let’s Talk Month—an international campaign held each October to support parents and families in their roles as sexuality educators of their children. Barbara worked tirelessly with many states to found coalitions on teen pregnancy prevention, building their capacity to better support youth. Barbara closed her career as the National Director of Education and Outreach for Advocates for Youth and the coordinator of the Rights. Respect. Responsibility. national campaign, based on the lessons learned from conducting annual study tours to Western Europe. In homage to her vast contributions to improving youth health and well-being, Healthy Teen Network recognized Barbara with the 2013 Carol Mendez Cassell Award for Excellence in Sexuality Education.

It is with sadness but also awe that we remember Barbara. Listing her accomplishments fails to illustrate the tremendous impact she has made on our field. Barbara was a real personality, whether sharing her famous condom bag, or teaching others to knit. Barbara always had a smile and a helping hand to give. It is her warmth, as well as her wisdom, that we will miss.


Parking & Metro: Street parking is available on Wisconsin Avenue, Porter Street, and 38th Street. In addition, parking will be available after 5:30 p.m. at Sidwell Friends School, in the lower level of the parking garage. The entrance to the garage is at the intersection of Rodman and Wisconsin Avenue, NW. There is a traffic light at that intersection. The closest Metro station is Tenleytown on the Red Line, approximately a one-mile walk.
RSVP: Kindly RSVP if possible by 11 p.m. Thursday, May 29, 2014, to info@advocatesforyouth.org. Please call Advocates for Youth at 202-419-3420 if you have questions.

#NoTeenShame: A Universal Goal

Natasha with her daughter Nelly

Natasha with her daughter Nelly

#NoTeenShame is a movement and a campaign serving as the public voice on the issue of teen pregnancy and the unnecessary stigmatization of teen parents. Created by a group of seven young mothers across the country—some of whom have never met in person–#NoTeenShame believes no young person should be shamed for his or her reproductive choices. Our goal this May is to continue highlighting successful relationships with organizations within our communities who are working in safe, inclusive ways.

Our progress on this movement may have started in 2013 when we initially launched a counter-campaign against #NoTeenPreg, but the truth is that our growth on the issue started long before we knew we were advocates. We had already spent years reflecting on our experiences and trying to make sense of the way teen pregnancy prevention has been framed.

For too long, our children have been dehumanized as public health issues and epidemics on the same list as all the other consequences of practicing unsafe sex, like AIDS, HIV, and STIs. There has been this narrow description of teen pregnancy force-fed into our culture that claimed teen pregnancy had a simple solution: shame teen moms and use them to scare teens. But missing from this discussion was the structural framework and institutional inequities that perpetuate the dichotomy between teen parenthood and success.

As young moms and self-determined advocates, we search through sites and teen pregnancy prevention campaigns and review connected strategic messaging materials for constructive and deconstructive frames—exactly in the way the Healthy Teen Network so amazingly put it—with  the focus on finding a solution.

We’re young moms and we know what the research says. The statistics may point to our likeliness of failing, but we recognize that there aren’t many researchers pursuing new questions and data sources that work to create new frames. How many researchers are collecting data on how the birth of a child can sometimes improve a teen’s life, prompting him/her to go back to school or push harder? How many researchers are asking whether or not an at-risk youth may be more likely to succeed after having a child and sense of new purpose? How many researchers are collecting data on the harmful effects on entire communities when shame-based approaches are used?

If we had more of those kinds of data, we wouldn’t have to constantly turn to our own individual stories, sometimes exploiting the most traumatic moments of our life, for the news and media, in hopes of shifting this negative dialogue to an already often disapproving society. The negative statistics and data realistically set up the dichotomy between teen pregnancy and success. When a teen parent does reach any level of society’s driven definition of success, he or she is “otherized” and perceived as the exception from parenting peers. And the same negative data continue to otherize teen parents from their non-parenting peers, who prior to being exposed to negative messaging, may have been more supportive of teen parents.

Harassment, bullying, discrimination—it’s against Title IX regulations to treat an expectant and parenting student in these ways, but it continues to happen on a daily basis. (In fact, just less than a month ago, Massachusetts revised the state’s Bullying Bill to include expectant and parenting students within the language of targeted youth.) And while bullying and harassment is often expected only from student peers, we know teen parents are often shamed, stigmatized, otherized, bullied, and harassed by adults within the school’s administration.

In my own story, three of my teachers and a guidance counselor made it their mission to ensure my experiences in school weren’t easy. One teacher would use my growing belly as an example of making irresponsible choices; another would compare other struggling teen parents to my ability to balance schoolwork “better than them.” I remember my guidance counselor telling me it would have been a waste of our time to apply to colleges because “statistics say…,” and another teacher reprimanding me in front of my class for “using my sick child as an excuse” to miss class.

#NoTeenShame subscribes to the belief that our culture is capable of doing better. It takes leaders within organizations to step up and acknowledge that language needs to change. It takes allies who listen to us and develop their own strategies for improving their work. It takes those with privilege and power to continue putting tools and frameworks together to spark the change our culture so desperately needs. And it takes strong young mothers across the country to help shift the way our culture perceives and defines motherhood for others.

Change happens at the edge of the system, at the very rim of impossible. And it’s through connectivity, activism, and collective impact that makes things like #NoTeenShame a universal goal.

Natasha Vianna is an advocate for young families and member of #NoTeenShame, a movement led by seven young mothers, Natasha Vianna, Gloria Malone, Lisette Orellana, Marylouise Kuti-Schubert, Jasmin Colon, Christina Martinez, and Consuela Greene, to improve strategic messaging campaigns and conversation around young parenting to a non-stigmatizing and non-shaming approach.

The Importance of an Inclusive Youth 360° Message for Adolescent Health and Well-Being: Statement from Healthy Teen Network on the Observance of the National Month to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Positive News

Pat Paluzzi, DrPH

Pat Paluzzi, DrPH

As Healthy Teen Network participates in the 13th annual observance of the National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, we are encouraged by the news that rates of pregnancies and births to United States youth below age 20 have declined over the past two decades.[1] Landmark research by John Santelli and others suggests that this decline is entirely attributable to increased contraceptive use among older youth (18 and 19 years old) and primarily attributable to improved contraceptive use among 15- to 17-year olds.[2] This evidence implies that further reductions in teen pregnancies and births will occur when more youth can gain access to contraceptives and, associated with that access, education and skills about using contraceptives—such as negotiating contraceptive use between sex partners. Thus we are encouraged by the recent release of new recommendations outlining how to provide quality family planning services by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Office of Population Affairs of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.[3]We hope these recommendations will spark continued improvements in family planning services to adolescents.

Positive news notwithstanding, teen pregnancies and births continue to occur in high rates. Contributing to this condition are believed to be factors such as low sexual health literacy and discomfort among some adult family members in discussing matters of sexuality with their children; lack of universal school-based comprehensive sexuality education; inability to implement teen pregnancy prevention (TPP) evidence-based interventions (EBIs) on a widespread basis due to cost and complexity and low levels of public funding; unavailability of TPP EBIs tailored to some marginalized subpopulations; policies and practices that prevent youth from accessing contraceptives; and behavior messages from media that glamorize sexual activity. And then there are the constellation of social determinants, including poverty and intimate partner violence, which compound the problem. Clearly, teen pregnancy is not a single issue focus or fix, but one that requires collaboration from multiple agencies and individuals, and especially youth.

A Month to Educate, Energize, and Empower

Like many others working in the adolescent sexual and reproductive health field, Healthy Teen Network uses the opportunity presented by the National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month to educate the public, press, and policymakers of the work that remains to be done to reduce teen pregnancy rates in the United States. We also utilize the Month to energize our field and validate its excellent work. And certainly, the Month provides an opportunity to empower and showcase young people who are leading efforts in their schools and communities to educate peers about sexual and reproductive health, or who are simply taking a moment to educate themselves about the risk factors and protective factors of teen pregnancy.

Unfortunately, the Month also becomes the season when negative messages around teen pregnancy crop up. Most harmful are messages that teen parents are “bad girls making bad choices.”  Healthy Teen Network opposes such shaming. We refuse to assign negative value to any young person due to his or her parenting status. Nor do we forget that pregnancy among and births to teens (and adults for that matter) is not always a choice. We congratulate the young mothers who have persisted in a messaging campaign and movement, #NoTeenShame, to raise awareness regarding the unnecessary exploitation and stigmatization of teen mothers.[4]

Furthermore, negative messages about teen parents exclude them from important sub-messaging around pregnancy prevention: the delaying and spacing of subsequent childbearing. Healthy Teen Network asserts that with support and resources, adolescents who are parents can be effective parents. For us, there cannot be an inclusive National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month without including teen parents in the conversation and the solution.

Also of concern are messages that suggest teen parenting is costly to the public[5]—another form of shaming, but in a public policy context. We recognize the surface attractiveness of this message. It can be an effective tactic to engage those who are unpersuaded by explanations of the social-ecological causes of teen pregnancy and parenting and more prone to assign blame to teen parents for personal failings. But we must be cautious and strategic in its use, or we risk damage to teen families.

Moreover, cost arguments about teen parenting have their own set of pitfalls. These arguments operate on a disease prevention theory. Healthy Teen Network does not ascribe to this theory, as we do not consider teen pregnancy or parenting to be a disease in need of treatment. Rather, it is a fact of life affecting a small number of U.S. youth and their families annually. Yes, in order to be prepared to fully participate in modern life, adolescents and young adults need generous opportunities to pursue education and other enrichments—opportunities which are enhanced by delaying and spacing childbearing. Prevention is a priority for Healthy Teen Network. But so is supporting those young people with children

Investing in Our Youth and Families

Public costs associated with raising and supporting children and families are not unique or isolated to teen families. Having children is costly to society, regardless of the age of the parent. We have reached an obvious conclusion that children are good for a society (minimally for the society’s self-preservation), and that the benefits outweigh the costs—the costs are, truly, investments.

These cost arguments tend to characterize public expenditures for supporting teen families as “burdens.” Granted, there may be higher costs to raising children born to teens because this population tends to need additional supports due to the economic status and developmental stage of the teen parent. Healthy Teen Network suggests instead that these costs also are investments. A classic illustration is that studies report high public health insurance (i.e., Medicaid) costs associated with teen families. We would counter-argue: isn’t it more cost-efficient to health insure a family than not? And would we deny publicly-funded health insurance to families simply because of the age of the parent?  The reality is that some of our nation’s families are fragile due to all manner of causes, and that fragility does not discriminate by parental age. The American people do not want any of our nation’s families to fail.  Healthy Teen Network asserts that teen families should not be allowed to fail either.

Like most parents, pregnant and parenting teens are extremely motivated to offer their children a good life. They quickly realize that an education and a career are necessary, and with the right supports, they will complete high school and eagerly seek further education or training. With help from their families, other caring adults, and public and private asset-building resources and services, they can avoid some of the challenges they might otherwise face. Healthy Teen Network’s new infographic, “Picture Perfect: A Snapshot of What Helps Teen Families Grow & Thrive,” illustrates these opportunities.[6]

An Inclusive, Youth 360° Approach

In fact, what helps teen families grow and thrive is not so very different from what helps all families thrive. To improve outcomes (that is, to reduce teen pregnancies and births), we need to recognize the complex interrelated factors, or social determinants—such as access to quality education and health services, life goals and aspirations for the future, or healthy relationships—that influence individual behavior and health outcomes. How and where we live, learn, and play affects every one of us—our health and well-being, even our life span. And so, Healthy Teen Network uses an inclusive, Youth 360° approach to achieve better outcomes for youth across diverse populations, including, most certainly, pregnant and parenting teens.

Not only as we observe the National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, but every day, let’s indeed keep our attention on the important work already done and that must continue to support adolescent sexual and reproductive health. But let’s also be sure not to punish teen families, either by shaming them for their life circumstances or by depriving them (or even suggesting to deprive them) of the publicly-funded resources and services they require—just as do older adult-led families—to thrive as contributing members of our American community. A Youth 360° approach to not just prevention, but overall adolescent sexual and reproductive health, is the inclusive and positive messaging we must model to educate, to energize, and to empower not only our field, but the youth, the public, the press, and the policymakers as well.

About Healthy Teen Network

Healthy Teen Network is the only national membership organization with an inclusive, integrated focus on the sexual and reproductive health and well-being of adolescents and young adults, including pregnant and parenting teens. We provide capacity-building assistance for professionals and youth-serving organizations to ensure they have the resources and training to support youth. We believe society has an obligation to empower all adolescents and young adults, including teen parents, to have the opportunity to lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

President and CEO, Patricia Paluzzi, DrPH, CNM, has been active in the fields of reproductive and maternal and child health for over 30 years, as a clinician, researcher, administrator, and advocate. She has served as the visionary leader for Healthy Teen Network since 2003, building momentum for inclusive, integrated adolescent sexual and reproductive health care and services. 


[1] Office of Adolescent Health. (n.d.). Trends in Teen Pregnancy and Childbearing. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Retrieved from http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/adolescent-health-topics/reproductive-health/teen-pregnancy/trends.html

[2] Santelli, J., Duberstein Lindberg, L, Finer, L. & Susheela, S. (2007). Explaining Recent Declines in Adolescent Pregnancy in the United States: The Contribution of Abstinence and Improved Contraceptive Use. American Journal of Public Health; 97(1): 150–156.

[3]Gavin, L, Moskosky, S., Carter, M., et al. Providing Quality Family Planning Services: Recommendations of CDC and the U.S. Office of Population Affairs. MMWR 2014;63(No. 4). Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/pdf/rr/rr6304.pdf

[4] Vianna, N., Malone, G., Orellana, L., Colon, J., Martinez, C, Kuti-Schubert, M., Green, C. (2013). #NoTeenShame. Retrieved from  http://noteenshame.tumblr.com/

[5] The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. (2013). Counting It Up: Key data. Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://thenationalcampaign.org/resource/counting-it-key-data-2013

[6] Gilmore, C., Eisler, A. (2014). Picture Perfect: A Snapshot of what helps teen families grow & thrive. Baltimore, Maryland: Healthy Teen Network. Retrieved from https://healthyteennetwork.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/picture-perfect_final.jpg

Picture Perfect: A Snapshot of What Helps Teen Families Grow & Thrive (Infographic)

Picture Perfect_FINALPregnant and parenting teens are extremely motivated to offer their children a good life, and with the right supports, they can be successful adults and parents. Healthy Teen Network’s new infographic, “Picture Perfect: A Snapshot of What Helps Teen Families Grow & Thrive,” illustrates the diverse and unique needs teen parents have with growing up and building a healthy family.

Alexandra Eisler

Alexandra Eisler

The “Picture Perfect” infographic was designed by Cheri Gilmore, who is a former teen mom, in partnership with Healthy Teen Network Training and Technical Assistance Manager, Alexandra Eisler. Cheri volunteered for this project through Catchafire, a skills-based volunteer matchmaking service for nonprofit organizations. Cheri was drawn to Healthy Teen Network because, she explained, “I understand and value the importance of vital resources this organization provides in the support of young families.”

The content in the infographic draws on the best practices and research described in the Healthy Teen Network publication A BDI Logic Model for Working with Young Families Resource Kit. This infographic can be shared electronically or printed as an 11”x17” color poster. (Click on the infographic above to enlarge.)

More About Cheri Gilmore

Cheri Gilmore

Cheri Gilmore

Originally from Festus, MO Cheri enjoys photography, graphic arts, cooking, jewelry sales, and, of course, spending time with family and friends. She is a former teen mom, residing with her husband Mark in Festus with their children, Kayla, 25, Kyle 23, and Draven 8.  They also have two grandchildren Ellie, 4 and Rocco, 1.

Suggested Citation: Gilmore, C., Eisler, A. (2014). Picture Perfect: A Snapshot of what helps teen families grow & thrive. Baltimore, Maryland: Healthy Teen Network. https://healthyteennetwork.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/picture-perfect_final.jpg


CDC and OPA Release New Recommendations for Quality Family Planning Services–Attend the National Launch Webinar to Learn More

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have released new recommendations outlining how to provide quality family planning (QFP) services , addressing services including

  • contraceptive services,
  • pregnancy testing and counseling,
  • basic infertility services,
  • preconception health services, and
  • sexually transmitted infection (STI) services. [1]

From the report:qfp_cover_photo

The United States continues to face substantial challenges to improving the reproductive health of the U.S. population. Nearly one half of all pregnancies are unintended, with more than 700,000 adolescents aged 15–19 years becoming pregnant each year and more than 300,000 giving birth. One of eight pregnancies in the United States results in preterm birth, and infant mortality rates remain high compared with those of other developed countries.

This report can assist primary care providers in offering family planning services that will help women, men, and couples achieve their desired number and spacing of children and increase the likelihood that those children are born healthy.

The report provides recommendations for how to help prevent and achieve pregnancy, emphasizes offering a full range of contraceptive methods for persons seeking to prevent pregnancy, highlights the special needs of adolescent clients, and encourages the use of the family planning visit to provide selected preventive health services for women, in accordance with the recommendations for women issued by the Institute of Medicine and adopted by Health and Human Services.

Improving the quality of family planning services leads to improved reproductive health outcomes. Quality health care services consist of several attributes (which are defined further within the report):

  • Safety
  • Effectiveness
  • Client-centered approach
  • Timeliness
  • Efficiency
  • Accessibility
  • Equity
  • Value

Family planning providers have unique opportunities to not only provide reproductive health care, but to also serve as resources and referrals for a range of other critical health care services…QFP services can play a key role in improving a range of health outcomes.

Want to Learn More? Attend the National Launch Webinar

CDC and OPA will present a national launch webinar to introduce these recommendations in a brief webinar, Thursday, May 8, 2014, 1:00 pm to 2:00 pm ET. The webinar will provide an opportunity for all providers of family planning services to hear from leading subject matter experts, family planning stakeholders, and federal agency staff about the new QFP recommendations. Participants are encouraged to submit questions in advance of the webinar by visiting this site. Registration is now open.

[1] Gavin, L, Moskosky, S., Carter, M., et al. Providing Quality Family Planning Services: Recommendations of CDC and the U.S. Office of Population Affairs. MMWR 2014;63(No. 4).

Gina Desiderio is the Director of Marketing and Communications at Healthy Teen Network.

Teens and Social Media: Keeping Up and Learning More

Keeping up with what social media platforms teens use and how they use them can be a time-consuming activity. One thing is for sure, though—for most teens, social media and other forms of digital communication are a daily part of life.

The body of data on social media use among teens continues to grow, but when researching the “whats” and “hows” of teen social media use, two great places to start are:

Healthy Teen Network is getting ready to move our sex education app to the next level by applying for a larger grant which will allow us to finalize the app and distribute it to youth and youth-serving professionals. In an effort to understand the social media market better, we would like youth to answer a few questions about their use of social media. We will randomly select one respondent to receive a $20 gift card.

We are most interested in having girls complete this survey, but welcome all responses. The survey should take no more than 10 minutes to complete.


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