West Central Tribune (04.25.13)
Because of Minnesota’s soaring incidence of chlamydia among teens and young adults, Kandiyohi County was chosen to participate in a new initiative urging parents to talk to their children about relationships, health, and sex. The initiative is a state-funded demonstration project, which could develop into a statewide, and possibly even a national, model for other communities to use. Kandiyohi County’s project is believed to be the first of its kind in the United States that involves a community-based coalition and a plan developed by a local community.
Minnesota Department of Health officials are troubled by a huge increase in STD incidence that reached a new high in 2012. Figures released earlier in April revealed that chlamydia is now Minnesota’s number one reported infectious disease, with 18,000 cases in 2012, mainly among young adults and teens. This may be due in part to more screening that is catching more cases; however, many believe that the overall rate also is rising, and it is reaching younger ages. Because of the recent rise in rates, Candy Hadsall, a clinical specialist in STDs and an infertility prevention project coordinator with the state health department’s STD and HIV section, explained that health officials thought it was time to take a new approach. She noted, “Our belief was we needed to get communities involved. The top-down approach just doesn’t work.”
Last fall, Willmar, Minn. held a series of town hall meetings to create a grassroots strategy. The education campaign, launched this spring, is aimed at giving parents skills in talking to their kids about relationships and sex. A second campaign focuses on building awareness of chlamydia among teens and young adults, especially women. As part of the new initiative, the Kandiyohi County Coalition for Healthy Adolescent Sexuality is running an ad series that debuted locally in April, in which two teens embrace as the boy silently wonders, “Should I kiss her?” Dr. Deb Peterson, a family practice physician at Affiliated Community Medical Centers in Litchfield, Minn., and the Center’s medical director of quality, declared, “It’s about parents and kids hopefully having the conversation together. It comes back to making responsible choices.” The spring ad campaign will be repeated in the fall. Organizers are using social media, text messaging, and local health providers, as well as the ad series, to help publicize the message.