It Takes a Village to Raise a Child

This is one of the most common sayings I hear when it comes to addressing taboo subjects among teens. In 2012, I started a career in the education field as a college advisor to the class of 2017. The grant that I worked for at the time was made to follow students through their 7th grade year of middle school to their first year of college. During the student’s middle school years, I started to see relationships building. Then when students reached high school, I started to see that some of those relationships led to a teen pregnancy. The data shows there needs to be a lot of work done regarding health topics like reproductive health education, but we also know there are barriers preventing the job from getting done. At that point, I realized that I had already taught these students how to be successful academically, but they lacked education on risky behaviors, like being sexually active and the consequences it might bring.

May is Sex Ed for All month, therefore I thought it would be a great opportunity to share Val Verde Regional Medical Center’s success story of creating a community-based program that provides medically accurate sex education to students in Del Rio, Texas.  In my community of Del Rio, Val Verde Regional Medical Center identified the need to start conversations about taboo subjects like reproductive health. These conversations led to the creation of a teen program to ensure that students are able to make healthy, informed decisions.

Getting to Know the People we Serve

Val Verde Regional Medical Center conducts a community health needs assessment every three years to help identify local health related issues. Members of the community are asked to participate in small focus groups where they share their perspective on the overall health of the community.  There are a wide range of participants including:  health care providers, community leaders, educators, local law enforcement, and many others. With the information gathered, the leadership team at Val Verde Regional Medical Center analyzes the results and uses the information as a tool to help develop a care plan for the community.

Creating the Village

Adolescent health has been a big component in the past three community needs assessments, specifically around the need to address the topic of reproductive health.  When members of the community had this conversation, it was obvious that more education regarding adolescent health needed to be provided in the community. Val Verde Regional Medical Center took action, by adding a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Task Force and a Community Health Worker to the Community Outreach Team to work with the school district and other local organizations.

 The Journey Begins

The team at Val Verde Regional Medical Center, in partnership with the school district and other local organizations, presented their findings to the school district board and approval was granted to work with middle school students. With this partnership, all students enrolled in the 7th and 8th grade had the opportunity to participate in a program where they were presented with an evidence-based curriculum on comprehensive sex education.  Parents provided consent for students to participate in the program, participating students received the education needed to make medically informed decisions in their lives, and parents were provided with the opportunity to continue conversations at home with their adolescents about taboo topics and risky behaviors.

Lessons Learned

Val Verde Regional Medical Center continues to offer programs focusing on adolescent health and is grateful for all the partnerships which have been created through the process. We continue to empower teens and teach them to not be afraid to ask questions about reproductive health. Programs like these have also helped strengthen family relationships as students and parents are encouraged to continue the conversations at home after sessions have been completed. The village created by Val Verde Regional Medical Center has provided a learning opportunity for students in Del Rio around topics that will have an impact on their health and their futures.  Val Verde Regional Medical Center will continue to provide opportunities to adolescents and is always open to hearing about the best practices of other organizations with the same goal.  If you and your organization are looking to work together and create new partnerships that impact teens by providing the education and resources needed to live a healthy lifestyle, contact Marlen Ramirez at marlen.ramirez@vvrmc.org.