Online Program

Challenges and successes associated with implementing abstinence-plus education in a politically conservative state: Institutionalizing sex education in Mississippi

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Kenyatta Parker, DrPH(c), MPH, Office of Preventive Health, Mississippi State Department of Health, Ridgeland, MS
Tia Sides, MPH, CHES, Office of Preventive Health, Mississippi State Department of Health, Ridgeland, MS
Meagan Robinson, MPH, Office of Health Data and Research, Mississippi State Department of Health, Jackson, MS
The environment surrounding teen pregnancy and sexually-transmitted infections in Mississippi is high-risk, where the state has the second highest teen birth rate in the nation (50.2 per 1,000) and the second highest rates of both chlamydia and gonorrhea. In 2011, Mississippi passed House Bill 999, its sex education law which required school-based sex education policies (“abstinence-only” or “abstinence-plus”) to be established within Mississippi’s public school districts. The passing and implementation of the law was met with some challenges. The law, while mandating school districts to adopt a sex education policy, presents some restrictions on teaching comprehensive sex education and the political environment maintains that abstinence-only is the state standard for any sex-related education taught in public schools.

The Mississippi State Department of Health’s Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) and Mississippi First, a local non-profit organization, created the Creating Healthy and Responsible Teens (CHART) Initiative to reduce teen pregnancy, improve teen sexual health and increase responsible decision-making. This initiative involves policy tools development and enables school districts to provide abstinence-plus education programs which are evidence-based, age-appropriate, and medically accurate.  School districts implementing CHART receive resources, trainings, technical assistance and support throughout the implementation process.  With the help of local non-profits and coalitions, the organizations have been able to establish key projects and initiatives throughout Mississippi to aid in its ultimate goal to institutionalize sex education in Mississippi.  This presentation will share successes, challenges, and key strategies for sustainability and implementation plans of projects despite working in a politically conservative state.

Learning Areas:

Implementation of health education strategies, interventions and programs
Planning of health education strategies, interventions, and programs
Public health or related laws, regulations, standards, or guidelines

Learning Objectives:
Demonstrate how to use/develop local and statewide coalitions to achieve maximum results. Explain how to make comprehensive sex education a permanent component of the public education system. Discuss how to leverage current progress, initiatives, and projects for long-term sustainable sex education.

Keyword(s): Health Promotion and Education, Teen Pregnancy

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am an epidemiologist and evaluator at a state health department, where I provide epidemiological and evaluation support to programs focusing on teenage STI and pregnancy prevention, maternal and child health, and improving data linkages and surveillance. I am also currently studying to receive a DrPH, concentration in epidemiology, at a certified CEPH program. Among my scientific interests has been developing strategies for health promotion and the prevention of chronic diseases and risk factors.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.

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