Alaska Dispatch (10.24.12)
With the STD and teen pregnancy rates so high in rural Alaska, several programs hope to educate young people and get them talking about sex. One such program, “I Know Mine,” provides a website with health advice on topics such as drugs, alcohol, smoking, and sex. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium (ANTHC) developed the website four years ago after visiting rural villages to find out the type of sex education rural youth might welcome. The “I Know Mine” website provides information on STDs, sexual health, where to get tested, a link for users to receive free condoms, and includes a variety of heath topics, such as healthy relationships, nutrition, and emotional help.
Another program called “P.H.A.T.” (Promoting Health Among Teens—Comprehensive Abstinence and Safer Sex Intervention) trains peer educators—youth aged 14 to 21—to share the program with other youth. Through a behavior intervention model, peer educators use role-playing exercises to train youth how to react, depending upon a given situation. The P.H.A.T. curriculum model focuses on abstinence education first, with sex education discussed as an alternative. Funded by a federal grant administered by Alaska, P.H.A.T. has made grants to four organizations to implement the program: Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Tundra Women’s Coalition, Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic, and the Alaska Youth and Parent Foundation. The program has 22 peer educators and will reach 225 young people a year, according to Stephanie Birch, section chief for the state Division of Women’s, Children’s and Family Health. Participants are not from traditional schools, but rather behavioral health residential facilities, juvenile detention centers, alternative high schools, foster care, and transitional housing.
Two other Alaska programs are similar in scope. The state’s “Fourth R” program adds a fourth “R” (relationships) to reading, writing, and arithmetic, and is led by teachers in school. The program targets bullying, dating, peer and group violence, and “empowers adolescents to make healthier decisions about relationships, substance use, and sexual behavior,” according to the program’s website. ANTHC also has a school-based program called “Native It’s Your Game,” an online curriculum geared toward middle-school students.