Using Our Mapping Tool to Target High-Need Communities

By Larry Bostian, Vice President for Development, School-Based Health Alliance

The Alliance recently submitted two funding proposals to a long-standing partner, the Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to strengthen services for adolescents vulnerable to HIV and STD infection and unintended teen pregnancy.

DASH is interested in improving the efficacy of schools delivering sexual health education (SHE) and sexual health services (SHS) in safe and supportive environments (SSE). From our national standpoint, we needed to identify geographic areas and populations with disproportionately poor sexual health outcomes.

We used our Children’s Health and Education Mapping Tool, which uses GIS mapping data, to find the 200 U.S. counties with the highest rates of teen births and chlamydia. At more than twice the national rate, these counties are largely small and rural (average school-aged population is 5,300 compared to 17,000 nationwide) and many are located in the South (two-thirds of the 200 counties are concentrated in Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Texas). More than half of the residents in these counties are racial and ethnic minorities.

The Mapping Tool landing graphic

Screenshot of the mapping tool.

With this valuable “burden data,” we secured partners in Arkansas, South Carolina, Louisiana, and Mississippi to develop and participate in a learning collaborative. The project will advance several objectives of Healthy People 2020, the nation’s comprehensive plan for health promotion and disease prevention. These include reducing the incidence of STDs and teen pregnancy, increasing the proportion of adolescents who receive formal instruction on reproductive health topics, and increasing parent-child communication about reproductive health.

Our project starts from the premise that successfully addressing STDs and poor sexual health outcomes depends on broad public support. That’s why we plan to help local teams bring together diverse community partners. We also know that sexual health education and services can be delivered effectively in the schools and, in particular, through school-based health centers.

Looking ahead, we’re eager to build national collaborations to improve health outcomes for students and youth and school-based approaches for SHE, SHS, and SSE. But we couldn’t be as strategic or informed in our approach without the powerful data available in the Children’s Health and Education Mapping Tool.

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