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March 17, 2020

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What’s Happening with the Alexa Challenge?

We were so excited to have been selected as a finalist for the Amazon Alexa EdTech Skills Challenge, but with the coronavirus pandemic and the need for social distancing, SXSW Edu has been postponed. Organizers are still exploring options for rescheduling and/or creating a virtual event, and that includes Amazon and the Alexa EdTech Skills Challenge. We’ll share any updates as soon as we are able. 

Headlines of the Week

Lessons From Past Pandemics: Disinformation, Scapegoating, and Social Distancing

The year 2020 is hardly the first time the world has been struck by a pandemic. Disease transmission on a wide geographic scale, causing massive illness, death, and economic disruption, have been recurrent in history. Fourteenth-century plague and the cocktail of diseases at the heart of the Columbian Exchange from the late fifteenth century onward are just two examples of the complex relationship between pathogens and people. Comparing the current COVID-19 pandemic to past episodes suggests several parallels in human reactions to disease. Many generated disinformation, scapegoating, and social distancing similar to what people are witnessing today. The recent spread of COVID-19 caused by the novel coronavirus demonstrates that this rapidly churning biological system—even when the transmissibility or fatality rate is yet to be fully understood—comes wrapped in layers of politics, economics, demography, and culture that echo historical patterns. (Brookings, 3/16/2020)

South Carolina Law Banning LGBTQ Sex Ed Is Unconstitutional, Judge Rules

A U.S. District Judge in South Carolina overturned a decades-old state law that prohibited discussion of LGBTQ issues in public school sex education classes. According to the ruling, the law violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The decision was prompted by a lawsuit filed just two weeks earlier by student members of the Gender and Sexuality Alliance at the School of the Arts in Charleston County, as well as several legal and LGBTQ advocacy groups. The law, passed in 1988, made it illegal for public school teachers to discuss “alternate sexual lifestyles from heterosexual relationships” except in the context of STIs. Teachers who disobeyed the law—whether by including LGBTQ issues in their curriculum, answering a student’s question or allowing classroom discussion—could be fired. (NBC News, 3/12/2020)

LGBTQ+ Community at Heightened Risk of Coronavirus, Groups Warn

More than 100 LGBTQ+ rights groups have called on U.S. public health officials to address the heightened vulnerability of gay and trans people to the coronavirus, warning that their frequently weakened immune systems can put them at risk. Rates of HIV and cancer that are higher than in the overall population make LGBTQ+ people susceptible to the virus, said the open letter signed by such groups as the Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal, and GLAAD. “We call on public health officials to ensure the LGBTQ community is considered and included in the public health response to COVID-19 based on potential risk factors ... in our community,” said Dr. Scott Nass, President of GLMA, an LGBTQ+ health advocacy group, in a statement. (Reuters, 3/11/2020)

5 Ways to Help Teens Manage Anxiety About the Coronavirus

People of all ages are concerned about the spread of the coronavirus, and teens as a group, tend to experience emotions especially intensely. As someone who might be raising, teaching, or otherwise caring for an adolescent who is feeling very nervous about it, here are five things that might help teens manage their anxiety. (New York Times, 3/11/2020)

Second Patient Cured of HIV, Say Doctors

A man from London has become the second person in the world to be cured of HIV, doctors say. Adam Castillejo is still free of the virus more than 30 months after stopping anti-retroviral therapy. He was not cured by the HIV drugs, however, but by a stem-cell treatment he received for a cancer he also had, the Lancet HIV journal reports. The donors of those stem cells have an uncommon gene that gives them, and now Adam Castillejo, protection against HIV. In 2011, Timothy Brown, the "Berlin Patient" became the first person reported as cured of HIV, three and half years after having similar treatment. The tests suggest 99% of Adam Castillejo's immune cells have been replaced by donor ones. But he still has remnants of the virus in his body, as does Timothy Brown. And it is impossible to say with absolute certainty his HIV will never come back. (BBC News, 3/10/2020)

This Week on Our Blog

Influencers are leading the online sex ed revolution!

By Genevieve Martínez-García
Sex education is everywhere—in schools, in clinics, in places of faith, and of course on your screen. Sex ed in digital spaces has grown tremendously over the last ten years thanks to the easy access to production tools (for content developers) and mobile devices and WiFi connectivity (for consumers), but also due to the lack of formal sex ed programs that meet the widely diverse needs of young people. Last month, I was invited to present at “Switched On: Sexuality education in the digital space,” an international symposium organized by UNESCO and UNFPA. Over 170 participants from all over the world gathered in Istanbul, Turkey, to share their experiences and lessons learned in producing, sustaining, and evaluating digital sexual health initiatives. Read more...

Funding & Other Opportunities

Put Birth Control on the Shelves

COVID-19 is a global pandemic. Everyone should be avoiding unnecessary doctors visits that simply overwhelm their offices. And people should also stock up on essentials, which could include birth control pills. However, it’s far too difficult (always, but especially now) to visit a doctor, get a prescription, and jump through hoops to afford it. It’s time Congress and the U.S. government make it possible to get the pill over-the-counter without a prescription or age-restriction. It’s time to #FreeThePill. As Congress debates another bill to provide relief from coronavirus, tell them to support joining over 100 other countries around the world in bringing the pill over-the-counter and onto the shelves at CVS, Walgreens, and online retailers.

Strengths-Based Approaches to Adolescent Sexual Health and Being an Askable Adult (Webinar)

March 31, 2020
1:00 PM ET
Join the Adolescent Health Initiative and the School-Based Health Alliance for this webinar on the strengths-based approaches to adolescent sexual health and being an askable adult. Discussing sexuality and sexual activity with young people can be challenging, and research shows that health care providers can have a significant impact on health outcomes when adequately addressing these sensitive topics with their adolescent patients. Effective sexual health counseling and services have a positive impact on the physical and emotional well-being of adolescents. Strengths-based approaches to sexual health supports the idea that staff and providers in varied healthcare roles can create a climate where young people are more likely to discuss their sexual health openly and honestly. Similarly, identifying strategies of being an askable adult helps to strengthen the ways of empowering youth and helping them feel comfortable asking for your support.

Implicit Bias: The Influence of Your Unconscious Mind

This is an online elearning program, hosted by the CDC TRAIN Learning Network, that will introduce the learner to the existence and effects of implicit bias. It is meant as a prep course for further bias mitigation training. After taking this course, the learner will be able to distinguish between the conscious and unconscious mind, describe the prevalence of unconscious bias, identify different kinds of biases and recognize the importance of having systems in place for insulating critical decisions from the effects of unconscious bias

Community-Based Approaches to Reducing Sexually Transmitted Diseases (CARS)

The CDC has announced the availability of Fiscal Year 2020 funds for a cooperative agreement with organizations with demonstrated experience and capacity of implementing community engagement methods and multi-sector partnerships to promote sexual health, advance community wellness, influence sexual health behavior and practices, and reduce STI disparities. In accordance with the Healthy People 2020 Goals for the nation, this funding opportunity announcement focuses on reducing the proportion of adolescents and young adults with Chlamydia trachomatis infections, reducing Chlamydia rates among females aged 15-44 years, reducing gonorrhea rates, reducing sustained domestic transmission of primary and secondary syphilis, congenital syphilis, gonorrhea incidence, and reducing the proportion of young adults with genital herpes infection due to herpes simplex type 2.
Deadline: 5/11/2020
Healthy Teen Network $40 for 40

Youth 360⁰The COVID-19 Outbreak: Potential Fallout for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights

The global epidemic of COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on a wide array of health, economic, social, and personal decisions. However, what may be lost in the chaos among other effects and dangers is the specific impact on sexual and reproductive health and rights, both for people in the United States and around the world. Policymakers, providers, and advocates must be aware of the broad links between the global outbreak response and sexual and reproductive health and rights in order to prepare to mitigate the impact. Unlike the Zika virus outbreak, where sexual and mother-to-infant transmission were well-established, much less is known today about these potential transmission routes for COVID-19. In addition, the specific risk to pregnant women and their infants is not yet clear, but these groups are often particularly vulnerable to infectious disease threats. Therefore, many experts say an enhanced focus on primary prevention for pregnant women is warranted. This analysis from the Guttmacher Institute outlines how healthcare systems might be affected, economic barriers to care, how the virus might affect reproductive priorities and actions.


Erasure and Resilience: The Experiences of LGBTQ Students of Color

Schools nationwide are often hostile environments for LGBTQ youth of color, where they experience racism, homophobia, and transphobia. In addition, many LGBTQ do not have access to in-school resources that may improve school climate and students’ experiences, including GSAs, ethnic/cultural clubs, supportive educators, and inclusive curriculum. This is a series of four research reports that examine the school experiences of Asian American and Pacific Islander, Black, Latinx, and Native and Indigenous LGBTQ youth. These reports were developed by the GLSEN Research Institute, in partnership with the National Black Justice Coalition (NBJC), National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA), Unidos US, Hispanic Federation, and the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY).

Pregnant Women's Reasons for and Experiences of Visiting Antiabortion Pregnancy Resource Centers

The primary mission of pregnancy resource centers is to dissuade women from choosing abortion. Reproductive health and rights advocates have asserted that these centers interfere in abortion decision making. However, the reasons pregnant women go to such centers and what they experience while there have not been examined. For this study, published in the Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health, transcripts were analyzed from phone interviews that were conducted with 21 pregnant women who had presented at prenatal care clinics in southern Louisiana and Baltimore, Maryland, and who had visited a pregnancy resource center. Topics covered in the interviews included reasons for visiting a center and the experience of the visit. Researchers found that most of the women were low income and had not been considering abortion when they visited a pregnancy resource center. Respondents reported that they had gone to these centers for pregnancy‐related services, material goods, and social support. They chose these centers because the resources were free, and they were largely satisfied with their experiences. Nonetheless, their receipt of services and goods was limited and often contingent on participation in the centers’ activities.

States Can Improve Supports for Infants and Toddlers Who Are in or at Risk of Entering Foster Care

To understand what policies and services are already in place for infants and toddlers in care and at risk of entering care, as well as where the child welfare field can leverage the opportunities provided by the Family First Act, Child Trends fielded the 2019 Survey of Child Welfare Agency Policies and Practices for Infants and Toddlers in, or who are Candidates for, Foster Care. The survey, supported by ZERO TO THREE (ZTT) and the Health and Human Services Administration (HRSA), aimed to understand the current array of policies and practices intended to serve this population, and how this array may have shifted since the initial fielding of the survey in 2013. The goal of the survey and report were to identify and share innovations in policy and practice and highlight key challenges that child welfare agencies face in meeting the needs of very young children who have experienced maltreatment. This report found that state child welfare policies and practices could better address the unique developmental needs of infants and toddlers both in foster care and at risk of entering care. The Family First Act is one opportunity for states to strengthen their support of these very young children. 


Updated National Sex Education Standards 

The Future of Sex Education Initiative, a partnership of Advocates for Youth, Answer, and SIECUS: Sex Ed for Social Change, has released the second edition of The National Sex Education Standards: Core Content and Skills, K–12 to support educators in providing medically accurate, trauma-informed, inclusive sex education. The National Sex Education Standards (NSES) outline the foundational knowledge and skills students need to navigate sexual development and grow into sexually healthy adults. The updated NSES include new topics to provide increased guidance to educators on a number of issues previously unaddressed and new indicators and topic strands to better address what is age-appropriate for students. The updated NSES reflect advancements in research regarding sexual orientation, gender identity, social, racial, and reproductive justice, and the long-term consequences of stigma and discrimination.

Sexuality Education Legislation and Policy: A State-By-State Comparison of Health Indicators

Research demonstrates that comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) results in improved sexual health outcomes for adolescents, which includes increased rates of contraceptive use, fewer teen pregnancies, lower rates of HIV, and other STIs, and delayed sexual initiation. In addition to improved sexual health outcomes, limited correlative research shows that CSE promotes social and emotional competencies that contribute to academic achievement, reduced risk-taking, and healthy relationships. CSE also supports the prevention of child sexual abuse, advances gender equity, and promotes healthy relationships and reduces the risk of sexual assault and intimate partner violence. This story map from the Robert Graham Center and HealthLandscape explores sexuality education legislation by state compared to the following health indicators: teen birth rate, contraceptive prevalence rate, STI rate, sexual violence, physical dating violence, bullying/harassment, and suicide

Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) Team Training Modules

These 10-part training modules from the Society for Public Health are ready-made professional development resources for use by states, districts or local schools to build, strengthen and sustain school teams implementing the WSCC model. The training modules are approximately one hour in length and designed to stand alone so that no one module is dependent on another, allowing the user to create a personalized professional development plan based on the needs of the schools or districts. All 10 modules include three resources: a training script, an accompanying PowerPoint, and a handout packet. All modules contain an agenda, objectives, materials list, essential content, and interactive activities to engage participants, as well as additional resources for expanding the work. SOPHE developed the training modules in collaboration with HealthMPowers, Inc. 

Coronavirus Crisis Communications Triage Kit

The Communications Network has been putting together some resources around crisis communications and has made this kit available to share and to crowdsource best practices, resources, and examples of effective crisis communications from foundations and nonprofits.
How can we help? We tailor our training & support to meet your unique needs.
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