Changing Views – From the Grassroots to the Treetops
By Lisa Olcese
As advocates for youth sexual health, some days can feel like an uphill battle. We do have reasons to celebrate: pregnancy rates for teens and 20-somethings are declining, and we know that parents can make a positive impact just by talking with their teens about sex, relationships and the future. Yet our progress is sometimes tempered by troubling steps backwards: a decrease in condom use among sexually active teens, misinformation about emergency contraception from pharmacists, a new antibiotic-resistant strain of gonorrhea, state laws on abstinence-only instruction (we’re looking at you, Tennessee!), and a Congress that continues to spend tax-payer dollars on failed abstinence-exclusive education.
Sometimes, from a grassroots perspective, it seems like we’re living in a long-gone era, and it can feel as though the battles for basic health education never end. But we have one thing that we didn’t have even three years ago.
The only statewide coalition of its kind, The Alliance and its members are building a coordinated network of advocates to ensure that all young people have access to youth-centered, inclusive and complete sexual health education, resources and services. The Alliance was formed three years ago with only 8 members. Today, we represent 36 Colorado organizations, including nonprofits and local public health departments, and work with state agencies, policy makers, parents and youth. We highlight all the latest news, actions and events related to youth sexual health in one place(link). We believe that our work together is stronger than any one of us could accomplish alone, and know that our collaborations amplify our voices for and with youth.
The summer has been full of challenging news but when we get a little perspective and move to the treetops, we see some exciting accomplishments ahead:
• the release of the next Sex Ed Snapshot, an update developed by Colorado Youth Matter and The Healthy Colorado Youth Alliance;
• the launch of Colorado’s first ever Youth Sexual Health in Colorado: A Call to Action, sponsored by CDPHE; and,
• more coordinated efforts to bring families and parents together around youth sexual health, starting with the hiring of our Family Engagement Director, Cammie Edson (see below).
In the midst of our challenges, bigger and better youth sexual health plans, projects and systems are being created. Together, we are making a lasting impact. If you believe that youth deserve access to the best education, resources and services a school or community has to offer, please join us!