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Developing a Location-Based Application to Identify Adolescent-Friendly Health Care Services



Adolescent births and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) remain serious public health issues in the U.S. Although the U.S. teen birth rate fell to an all-time low in 2009, it remains the highest among all developed countries. National data indicate that one in four adolescent females (14-19 years) has an STI. In 2007, 13% of high school students had been tested for HIV. Although adolescents have clear reproductive and sexual health care needs, it can be difficult to connect adolescents to sexual and reproductive health care that takes into account their unique needs. Confidentiality, transportation, hours of operation, and payment can all serve as barriers to referral to, and use of, appropriate youth reproductive and sexual health care. Schools can serve as an important source of referral to health care providers in the community, and evidence-based models such as that of Project Connect can help adolescents to access youth-friendly health care.

Project Goal:  The goal of the project is to develop a software package featuring a location-based application that can be used on a cell phone or tablet to provide the location of adolescent reproductive and sexual health care providers local to the user. In addition, the application should have a web-based portal and SMS functionality (i.e., short message service, texting). The application would provide the name, location, and hours of service of the health care provider; contact information; services provided; fee for service and reimbursement options; transportation options; and directions. Additionally, health care providers would be screened for the extent to which their services are adolescent-friendly. Additional functionality may include the possibility of anonymous reviews and ratings by adolescents on service providers. Feasibility studies for this application would be conducted in Detroit, Michigan, and Los Angeles, California. Detroit is the site of a current replication of Project Connect, and Los Angeles was the original study site. Vendors should have expertise in sexual health among adolescents, school health, and sexual risk reduction strategies. Further, successful vendors will have expertise in youth usage of social media.

Extensive collaboration is likely for this project. This application overlaps with the STD and HIV testing site locator Web site in that it provides a listing of health care providers and locations and may extend the functionality of this Web site. Further collaboration would be done with Project Connect investigators and youth health care providers within community, school, district, and health departments in Detroit and Los Angeles. This research would benefit on-going efforts to link youth to care nationally and facilitate use of the Project Connect model, as well as to more effectively link youth to care in the selected cities.

Impact:  This application would increase the effective referral to and use of reproductive and sexual health care resources for youth in metropolitan areas with high prevalence of HIV, STI, and pregnancy among adolescents. Broader use of a developed application would be used by youth, school health care providers, and community health care providers and would provide services that would prevent or provide care for HIV and STIs nationally.

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