Background: Driving adolescents to health centers is challenging. Data from Philadelphia indicated a lack of awareness among teens about the availability of sexual and reproductive health services. The “Your Sexual Health Matters” media campaign was developed by AccessMatters’ I MATTER Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, funded through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to raise awareness through positive messages to adolescents and connect them with free or low cost, confidential sexual and reproductive health services. The campaign incorporated substantial youth input. I MATTER Youth Leadership Team members and other adolescents from the target area participated in focus groups testing messages and imagery. Their involvement was critical to tailoring the campaign to youth, both in messaging and dissemination method. Campaign materials featuring images of local youth were disseminated using posters, fliers, and postcards; social media; radio ads; and transit ads in subway trains and on platforms. Almost one third of adolescents surveyed at partner health centers who reported seeing or hearing the campaign said that they took some action as a result.
Program background: AccessMatters’ I MATTER Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, funded through the CDC, uses a multi-component approach to prevent teen pregnancy. Elements include community mobilization through the Youth Leadership Team and a clinical component aimed at increasing access to and utilization of sexual and reproductive health services among youth. I MATTER’s goal is to decrease the teen birth rate in West and Southwest Philadelphia.
Evaluation Methods and Results: The impact of the "Your Sexual Health Matters" media campaign was assessed by examining website and social media traffic, adolescents’ self-reported exposures and responses, and utilization of I MATTER partner school-based health resource centers and health centers. Approximately 43% of adolescents who completed surveys reported exposure to the campaign, most often seeing ads on the subway train or platform or hearing them on the radio. Traffic on the I MATTER website and social media sites increased slightly. Of adolescents exposed to the campaign, 38.5% reported taking some action to obtain sexual and reproductive health services, most often calling a health center, talking to a healthcare provider about birth control, or visiting an school-based health resource center. Increases in use of school-based health resource centers and partner health centers were observed.
Conclusions: A relatively brief media campaign can reach adolescents and affect their awareness and use of sexual and reproductive health information and services. Key processes that led to successful implementation of this community-wide media campaign were inclusion of youth, detailed planning, adequate staffing, explicit partner buy-in, and careful monitoring.
Implications for research and/or practice:
- Utilizing formative research practices when developing similar campaigns is critical to success.
- Tailoring messages by fully engaging the target audience, including youth, in the development process is important.
- Ensuring that staff members have a full understanding of the resources available for dissemination and evaluation is key.
- An innovative media campaign is a promising and youth-friendly way to link adolescents to health services with easy tracking and evaluation mechanisms available.