First, Chicago. Then, the entire state.
That’s the ambitious goal of “My Body. My Story.” — Planned Parenthood of Illinois’ new campaign created in partnership with its Youth Advisory Board, a group of eight students from across Chicagoland who are advocates for sexual and reproductive health issues for teens 13-19.
Planned Parenthood of Illinois hopes the campaign, with its friendly language, cartoonish aesthetic and social media-driven presence, will encourage young people to seek out “medically accurate” information about their health care, said Paula Thornton Greear, the organization’s vice president of external affairs. Youth Advisory Board members have already produced awareness and educational events in schools across the region.
“It’s a youth-informed outreach and service delivery campaign whose goal is to increase awareness and, importantly, access to the most effective forms of birth control for teens,” said Thornton Greear. The main focus of the campaign is access to long-acting reversible contraceptives, or LARCs — most notably, an intrauterine device or IUD — though teens visiting a Planned Parenthood of Illinois site will be counseled on all birth control methods and will work with clinicians to select the one that is right for them.
“These have been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and the American Academy of Pediatrics,” Thornton Greear said. “They’ve been recommended as a first line of contraceptive options for teens because they’re safe, cost-effective over time, reversible and highly effective.”
The teens involved in the campaign are eager to get the word out and insist on inclusivity.
“I’d love to see people in my own life, my friends and my family, have these open meaningful conversations about sexual health and how to keep themselves protected,” said Mack Guthrie, a suburban high school student on the Youth Advisory Board. “I know, on a grander, campaign-level scale, we are looking to see more young women, in particular, understand their options.”
Sydney Pauta, of Chicago, is another member of the Youth Advisory Board and says that the students involved insisted that “My Body. My Story.” be inclusive — it’s “for people of all gender identities, cultures and sexualities.”
“One of the mythologies around Planned Parenthood that I always like to bust is that we only serve female gender-identifying patients. And that is not true,” says Thornton Greear. “Certainly we provide services for male gender-identifying patients, as well as trans patients.”
Planned Parenthood of Illinois anticipates expanding “My Body. My Story.” by partnering with organizations and providing outreach and education in the communities in which its health centers are based.
“We would also like to have a Downstate Youth Advisory Board in order to help adapt and integrate the campaign into their unique communities, and collect youths’ stories from around the state,” says Thornton Greear. “We also hope to establish a statewide youth coalition, in which various youth groups throughout Illinois can connect and support each other’s efforts.”
With this wide-reaching ambition, “My Body. My Story.” addresses teen pregnancy statistics for the state.
“In Illinois, half of all pregnancies are unintended and that our state’s teen pregnancy rate is 51 per 1,000, which is on par with the national rate, the highest of any developed country,” said Thornton Greear. “The teen pregnancy rate in Chicago is 1.5 times higher than the national rate. This is why it’s so important that we raise awareness and educate.”
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