This paper discusses the problem of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among adolescents in Atlantic City and Atlantic County in New Jersey. People of ages from 10 to 19 are increasingly engaging in sexual intercourse without necessarily following the proper safety guidelines. As a result, the rate of STD infection among this population group is higher than average. At the same time, adolescents may be less likely to seek help for their conditions due to factors such as a lack of time or money as well as embarrassment. As such, traditional prevention and treatment programs may not apply to this population category to their full extent. An alternate approach is necessary, one that accounts for the needs of youth and implements measures that target them effectively. This paper describes a potential intervention based on a community-wide effort to improve awareness and encourage adolescents to seek medical help when affected by an STD.
The youths who are affected by STDs or are at risk of them are the first and most important stakeholder category. By exercising proper safety precautions, they can reduce the rate at which they become ill dramatically. The reasons why they do not engage in preventative behaviors vary, and Holway and Hernandez (2018) suggest that they are at least in part related to a lack of awareness of the dangers of particular types of intercourse. If they seek help for their existing conditions instead of concealing them, they can also reduce the threat that STDs pose to the community. They would be less likely to engage in further intercourse and spread the condition, knowing the danger that it poses. As such, it is essential to engage adolescents, especially sexually active ones, for the program to succeed.
The second stakeholder category that needs to be considered for the program to succeed is parents of adolescents. They can contribute substantially to shaping their children’s perceptions of sexual intercourse, its dangers, and the safety precautions that should be taken. In neglecting to do so, they can elevate the threat of adolescent STIs by failing to prevent their children from engaging in risky practices. Moreover, as the people closest to the target population category, they have the opportunity to notice if their child is experiencing difficulties and convince them to seek help. It should also be noted that parents have a powerful incentive to seek and promote their children’s well-being, which includes their sexual health. As such, any effective community-based approach to the problem necessarily has to involve them to a substantial degree.
The third category would be teachers at schools, as their potential to spread awareness of STIs among adolescents rivals that of parents. Schools are places where youth spend most of their time, as well as prominent locations for people to socialize. As a result, many, if not most, sexual encounters between adolescents will likely originate from school. As people closest to that location, teachers have a substantial degree of knowledge and influence on the formation of these relationships. They also teach sexual education at school, which aims to minimize the dangers of sexual intercourse through, in large part, spreading awareness of STDs and their prevention as well as treatment. As such, teachers are already essential to STD control among adolescents, and an initiative to address it further would likely be substantially less effective without their involvement.
The fourth and final category involves local medical workers, especially those that work with adolescents and STDs. While the active participation of the parents and teachers is necessary to implement whatever solution is developed effectively, they may not have the information needed to create this response. Medical workers have superior access to knowledge about the problem’s prevalence in the community, though the nature of the situation and the need for privacy preclude them from obtaining the full overview. Moreover, they are aware of the latest medical research developments and evidence-based practice regarding the optimal approaches to addressing the problem. With their assistance, a response that takes into account the needs of the adolescents in question and incorporates the latest techniques of disseminating information and prevention methods can be formulated and put into practice.
The adolescent community needs improved access to accurate and up-to-date information regarding their sexual activities. As Holway and Hernandez (2018) describe, adolescents who engage in oral intercourse are typically not aware of the potential for their actions to serve as pathways for a number of STDs. As a result, they do not take precautions, putting themselves and their partner at risk. Additionally, Doull et al. (2018) find that sexual minorities do not have adequate access to information regarding the conditions that can result from their activities. They may be underserved by the current sexual education system and assume that the lack of information means a lack of danger. Overall, adolescents require improved access to more relevant and updated knowledge that matches their needs and helps them take the necessary measures to safeguard themselves when they engage in sexual intercourse.
The second need concerns those adolescents who have already contracted an STD and are now seeking help. Per Fisher et al. (2020), a prominent view among them claims that the services currently provided do not supply them with adequate confidentiality, comfort, and non-judgment. As such, trust among adolescents in the services that are now available to them is lacking. At the same time, they are concerned about actively engaging in searches for other avenues of help because they do not want to let others know about their problem. Resources need to be easily available via confidential and quick measures to which they are likely to resort, such as an online search. As such, both the quality of the help provided to adolescents and their knowledge of how they may find this assistance require substantial improvement.
A variety of resources is available to improve the target population’s access to information, both existing and potential ones. Sexual education lessons at schools are one possible avenue, as the curricula can be updated to incorporate a more diverse and relevant range of information that corresponds to the latest medical research. It may be possible to invite speakers that will connect with sexual minorities, as well, relating their experiences and knowledge to them in an accessible manner. Posters are another method of disseminating information without singling anyone out that can be placed in schools, clinics, and other locations where adolescents may congregate. With a larger investment, it may also be an option to fund public advertisements disseminated through various media. Web pages with relevant information are the final substantial yet inexpensive resource that can be referred to in the other items and provide highly detailed knowledge to adolescents who search for it.
With regard to resources for help with existing conditions, many of the same items also apply. The informational posters and pages can include a list of organizations that an adolescent who is infected with an STD can contact for help. With that said, formulating and finding said organizations may be a challenge, especially when the requirements put forward by the target population are considered. They need to be comfortable and highly confidential yet possible for adolescents to afford, preferably free. Provided that such resources exist, their capacity also needs to match the number of people who are likely to seek out help. With community donation-based funding, it may be possible to create services that can serve part of the demand and spread information about them. However, full coverage is unlikely, especially in the long term, and other measures need to be considered.
One option would be to attempt to ensure that the services already provided by the community’s medical workers match the standard. Many adolescents share their parents’ insurance, which enables them to receive treatment at a minimal cost. However, at present, they distrust the system, as they assume that the information about their visit and treatment would be shared with their parents. A refinement that improves privacy and makes the services more welcoming may help alleviate the problem substantially using the existing substantial resources of the medical system. With that said, this effort would require significant overhauls in how medical facilities and workers operate, likely including extensive training and incurring substantial costs. It is necessary to secure the consent of the medical workers in question as well as the larger facilities before beginning any operations in this regard.
First, it is necessary to formulate the best practices for preventing STD infection based on evidence and research. To that end, a special team of medical workers who are familiar with the problem will assemble and start working over the span of a month. Their task will be to establish a comprehensive set of information regarding the potential dangers of various forms of adolescent sexual intercourse and how they may be minimized, as well as how multiple STDs may be recognized. At the same time, organizational assessments will be taking place at various medical facilities that deal with adolescents and their sexual health as part of the five-phase change plan formulated by Brittain et al. (2019). At the end of this stage, it will become clearer what problems are currently the most relevant and what steps need to be taken.
Following this step, another month will be taken to design the specific changes required to address the problem in the community. At medical facilities, organizational change plans will be created, and staff training will be arranged. Beyond them, stakeholders will begin designing posters and other forms of advertisement as well as preparing webpages with relevant information. Teachers at schools will work on adjusting their sexual education curricula to incorporate the information gathered during the previous phase and eliminate items considered outdated or incorrect. Nelson et al. (2019) also recommend preparing online sexually explicit platforms with the necessary information for sexual minorities, as they appear to be in demand among the community. Money gathering for the initiative will also begin at this time, with the campaign advertised throughout the community.
At the end of this step, the process will be ready to move into the active phase, during which the changes that have been designed will be implemented. Medical staff will receive the necessary training, and management will start incorporating the changes that have been deemed necessary. The posters and advertisements will be produced and placed where they will have the most impact. They will promote the web resources, which will have been made public earlier but will now exist in their finalized forms. Teachers will begin implementing the new sexual education curricula with students while actively collecting feedback about the new approach’s strengths and weaknesses. This stage is expected to take three months, at the end of which there should be adequate dissemination of accurate and relevant information as well as a medical system that is ready to satisfy the needs of STD-conscious or affected adolescents.
The final step of the plan will be continuous and take place indefinitely in the form of the assessment of its success and the correction of any issues. As mentioned above, teachers and medical facility staff will collect feedback from various stakeholders to determine whether the initiative serves the needs of the population adequately. If deficiencies emerge, the relevant stakeholders will meet to discuss how they may be addressed and implement the solution that they create. The medical workers mentioned above will also monitor the latest developments in STD-related knowledge and incorporate them into the guidelines at regular meetings. These updates will then be incorporated into the rest of the system described above at various intervals, more often for easily changed resources such as web pages and only if they are significant for immutable items such as posters.
It should be noted that, due to the current circumstances, it would likely be impossible to form a group necessary to put the plan proposed above into practice. Nevertheless, there is reason to consider the organization of the enterprise and the monitoring and coordination of its progress. A temporary committee would be formed, including prominent representatives of the stakeholder groups (with the exception of adolescents themselves). Parental association leaders could represent their co-members, figures from teacher unions or school administrators could relay the views of teachers, and a similar consideration applies to medical staff. This group would manage the sub-teams working on each of the smaller tasks and collect metrics to ensure that the initiative proceeds smoothly. The structure ensures that the interests of all stakeholders who will be creating the change are taken into consideration and that the committee has adequate authority to ensure that its decisions are followed.
First, it is necessary to establish numerical metrics to evaluate the success of the initiative. They have to provide answers to two critical questions: do adolescents employ safer practices during their sexual intercourse, and do those that are infected with STDs receive the medical help that they need? For the first purpose, a questionnaire will be formulated and regularly distributed anonymously among adolescents in Atlantic City and Atlantic County. It will collect general information about their sexual activity and adherence to the recommended practices and demonstrate whether the information spreading was effective. For the second purpose, the relevant metric will be the number of adolescent visits to medical facilities for reproductive health-related purposes. All information will be strictly confidential, but the overall number of visits can still be tracked. A higher number indicates greater usage of the facilities, while its decline alongside practice adherence likely suggests an improvement in the adolescent population’s overall reproductive health.
With that said, numerical information alone struggles to provide the entire perspective on the matter. It is also necessary to collect impressions from various stakeholders to evaluate their opinion on the initiative’s success. The feedback collection mentioned above will contribute to this purpose, helping clarify the beliefs adolescents hold regarding the new system. Additionally, the impressions of those people who work with the target population directly, notably teachers and medical staff, should be collected. Parents’ views should also be taken into consideration, produced either directly or through the teachers who interact with them. If there are widespread correlations of opinion on some matter, it should be investigated and confirmed or denied. This combined information gathering approach should prove effective at assessing the success of the project in the short and long terms and informing changes.
The problem of STD prevalence among adolescents is a nationwide concern, but there is currently no uniform, effective, and evidence-based approach to addressing the issue. However, attempts to do so in various locations have accumulated into a substantial amount of evidence, which Atlantic City and Atlantic County can use to formulate a distinct and advanced program. Teachers, parents, and medical workers will be the primary stakeholders involved in developing the change, while adolescents are critical for understanding what alterations in the current framework are necessary. Through various media, information about STDs in multiple environments and the best prevention methods will be disseminated. At the same time, the medical system will reform itself to become more confidential and affordable. The process is planned to take a total of five months for the first three stages, with the fourth continuing indefinitely in a less active manner than before. While it is impossible to implement the new method at this time, it is still beneficial to develop a prospective leadership structure and outline the success metrics that will be tracked.
Brittain, A. W., Tevendale, H. D., Mueller, T., Kulkarni, A. D., Middleton, D., Garrison, M. L., Read-Wahidi, M. R., & Koumans, E. H. (2019). The Teen Access and Quality Initiative: Improving adolescent reproductive health best practices in publicly funded health centers. Journal of Community Health, 45, 615-625.
Doull, M., Wolowic, J., Saewyc, E., Rosario, M., Prescott, T., & Ybarra, M. L. (2018). Why girls choose not to use barriers to prevent sexually transmitted infection during female-to-female sex. Journal of Adolescent Health, 62(4), 411-416.
Fisher, C. M., Kerr, L., Ezer, P., Kneip Pelster, A. D., Coleman, J. D., & Tibbits, M. (2020). Adolescent perspectives on addressing teenage pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in the classroom and beyond. Sex Education, 20(1), 90-100.
Holway, G. V., & Hernandez, S. M. (2018). Oral sex and condom use in a US national sample of adolescents and young adults. Journal of Adolescent Health, 62(4), 402-410.
Nelson, K. M., Pantalone, D. W., & Carey, M. P. (2019). Sexual health education for adolescent males who are interested in sex with males: An investigation of experiences, preferences, and needs. Journal of Adolescent Health, 64(1), 36-42.