Posts Tagged ‘safe sex’



Digging into the data behind SafeTeens


The secret is out. We confess. Here at SafeTeens, we love data. We love to look at our website analytics and see what are the most popular pages, then see how we can expand or improve them. We look at the types of questions being asked on SafeTeens Answers! and look for ways to incorporate those questions on our site and social media. The ways to use data are never-ending, which is why we are excited to share an excellent online resource that is useful to educators and anyone interested in tracking health data. All of the below data is available through the Pennsylvania Department of Health Enterprise Data Dissemination Informatics Exchange.

While the data is overall positive, with pregnancy and STD rates declining across the state over the past several years, there are still many areas that need to be worked on, as is evidence in the map at the end. Teen birth rates remain high in pockets throughout the country, along with some demographics. Our goal here at SafeTeens is to do further analysis of this data and share it here on our site for educators and health care professionals. Stay tuned for more information and take a moment to view the Health Enterprise Data Dissemination Informatics Exchange for yourself.


Pennsylvania Teen Birth Rates in 2015




Get ready! It’s Pennsylvania Teen Health Week!


Help us celebrate!Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Laura Offutt, MD, whose digital health resource, Real Talk with Dr. Offutt, developed Teen Health Week in collaboration with the College of Physicians of Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Department of Health with support from the Pennsylvania Medical Society. Laura is a volunteer internal medicine physician, youth mentor and advocate who uses social media and her blog-based website to engage adolescents with teen-friendly, accurate health information.

Get ready! This week is Pennsylvania Teen Health Week! As proclaimed by Governor Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania Teen Health Week to focuses on the overall health of teenagers from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh and everywhere in between. Pennsylvania is the first and only state to have such a statewide proclamation and observance – but soon Teen Health Week will be a national celebration!

It’s easy to be a part of this special week.  Involvement can be as simple as hanging a flyer announcing the week in your school, church or community center, or wearing lime green, the official color of Teen Health Week.  We even have a toolkit which is full of easy ideas for activities, sample social media posts, and a variety of resources which are organized around the broad themes covered in the week.

Each day has a specific broad health focus:

Monday: Healthy Diet and Exercise

Tuesday: Violence Prevention

WednesdayMental Health

Thursday: Sexual Development and Health

Friday: Substance Use and Abuse

Why is Teen Health Week important? Well, did you know that in Pennsylvania more than a third of our young feel depressed or sad most days?  Or that many teens think that driving after smoking marijuana is safer than after drinking? Or that 1 in 3 high school students have been in an abusive relationship? Or that fewer than one-tenth of our teens broke a sweat for one short hour in the past week?  And that fifteen- to nineteen-year-olds account for nearly half of the cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea in Pennsylvania?

As you can see, there are plenty of good reasons to have a week focused on teen health here in Pennsylvania!

Don’t worry – it’s not too late to take part in this fun and special week!  Here are a few ideas of how you can be a part of it:

Wear lime green. It’s the official Teen Health Week color.

Get artsy. Use post-it notes and set up a New Year’s Resolution wall that week – where teens can put anonymous health resolutions for 2017! You know, like “eat a fruit every day.”  Or, “make sure to get enough sleep.”

Hashtag for health. Share or post educational announcements or social media posts focused on each day’s health theme with friends or students. (Find these in the toolkit, or on SafeTeens’ social media channels.)

Help us celebrate! Attend the kick-off at the State Capitol Building in Harrisburg on January 9th, or the Friday the 13th celebration at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia.

Plus, there are a lot more easy and fun ideas already created for you in our toolkit!



Prepare for Freshman Year…With a GYN exam (It’s not that bad!)


AR-140729874Editor’s note: This article originally appeared at Geisinger is one of the nation’s largest rural health services organizations, serving more than 2.6 million residents throughout 44 counties in central and northeast Pennsylvania. Whether you have insurance or not, you can make an appointment for a free or low cost GYN exam at health centers across Pennsylvania.


Timing is everything

Most colleges and universities require their incoming students to have a routine physical completed before reporting to their first class. This ensures that students are healthy and up-to-date on immunizations before coming into a close-living and learning situation.

The same can be said about women having a routine gynecological exam before they begin their freshman year.

“It’s recommend that women have their first gynecological exam between the ages of 15 and 18,” said Brian Murray, M.D., a gynecologist at Geisinger Mt. Pleasant, Scranton. “All women should have had a gynecological exam by the time they’re ready to begin college at age 18. However, if a woman becomes sexually active prior to their 18th birthday, GYN exams should begin sooner.”

If a young woman hasn’t had a GYN exam before, having one prior to leaving for school will ensure they are healthy and informed about how to protect their health.


The exam explained

Before any part of the actual exam begins, your doctor will likely take some time to talk to you and get to know you a little better. This is meant not only to put you at ease and calm your nerves, but also to get a picture of your overall health and any risk factors you may have for health conditions.

“The first part of a routine GYN exam involves your doctor performing a breast exam — this allows your doctor to look for or identify any unusual lumps or changes in the tissue and skin,” Dr. Murray said. During this part of the exam, your doctor will also show you how to perform a self-breast exam so you can check for any lumps or changes in between visits.

Next, the doctor may perform a pelvic exam, which not all patients require. During a pelvic exam, your doctor examine the external genital area as well as the cervix, vaginal walls, uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries.

“During the pelvic exam, your doctor may perform a Pap smear,” Dr. Murray said. “This test consists of taking cells from the cervix to detect the presence of pre-cancerous or cancerous cells.”




Let’s talk about…sex

Based on the earlier discussion of your health and history, your doctor may recommend testing for sexually transmitted diseases. While the conversation about your sexual health may be uncomfortable, it’s important to be honest in order for your doctor to accurately assess any risks to your health.

One part of the discussion may be about human papillomavirus (HPV).

“In general, we recommend you receive the HPV vaccine starting as early as 9 – 11 years. But, if you haven’t yet received the vaccine, your doctor may recommend you receive it now if you are still under the age of 26. The vaccine is designed to protect against HPV infection and the health problems the HPV infection can cause,” Dr. Murray said.

Your routine GYN appointment is also an ideal time to bring up any questions you may have about birth control options.

“Anything you discuss with your gynecologist about birth control, sex, STDs, pregnancy or anything else is private and confidential. Ask any questions you may have about your reproductive health to learn what you can do to protect your health as you embark into a new phase of your life,” Dr. Murray advised.

Editor’s note: You can make an appointment for a free or low cost GYN exam at health centers across Pennsylvania.



Rusty nails & cancer prevention: HPV vaccine myths and facts


HPV Vaccine Myths and FactsHPV is a really, REALLY common STD. In fact, it’s so common that most people will get it at some point in their lives. While that sounds a bit scary, it’s usually not that big of a deal. Most of the time, your body can fight it off and make it go away on its own. And to help your body out, there’s the HPV vaccine, a shot that protects you against certain, more serious types of HPV.

While a lot of teens get the HPV vaccine, not too many teens know too much about it. Let’s clear up some myths.

Myth #1: It’s only for people who have sex.

Fact: The HPV vaccine works best if it’s given a chance to develop an immune response in your body. That takes time. That’s why it’s recommended for teens and preteens, long before they are even thinking about sex.

Myth #2: It’s just for girls.

Fact: The HPV vaccine is for girls – and guys. A lot of people know that the vaccine can prevent cervical cancer in girls, which is sometimes brought on by HPV. But the truth is, the vaccine can also prevent both girls and guys from getting other HPV-related cancers, such as throat and anal cancers, as well as genital warts, really easy-to-spread skin growths.

Myth #3: It makes you more likely to have sex.

Fact: Some people think the vaccine gives teens the freedom to have sex – or worse, unprotected sex.

“That’s like saying that if you get the tetanus vaccine, you’re more likely to go and step on rusty nails on purpose.”Joyce, 18 years old, Sex, Etc.

In other words, the HPV vaccine is cancer prevention; it doesn’t make you any more or less likely to have sex. Besides, the vaccine protects against certain types of one STD, in this case HPV. It does not protect against others, such as Chlamydia. That’s why it’s a good idea to practice abstinence and safe sex whether you got the vaccine or not.

Myth #4: I don’t need it if I wear condoms.

Fact: Condoms are great at protecting you from STDs like Chlamydia and HIV, but they don’t always protect you from HPV. HPV can be spread through genital-to-genital contact, and condoms and dental dams only cover part of the genitals. (That’s part of the reason why so many people get it!) So you should probably get the HPV vaccine, even if you plan on using condoms.

Most girls and a lot of guys are vaccinated when they are 11 or 12. If you’re not sure if you had the HPV vaccine to prevent cancers and genital warts, ask your parent or doctor about the HPV vaccine. After all, taking care of your health is an important part of being a teen.



OMG! The condom broke!!!


Luckily, pregnancy doesn’t happen right after sex. It can take hours or even days to become pregnant. In that time, emergency contraception can help stop pregnancy from ever happening.

If you’re 17 and under, you can get a prescription for emergency contraception at any of Pennsylvania’s Reproductive Health Centers. For women and guys 18 and older, no prescription is needed; just ask your pharmacist for emergency contraception.