Date of Defense:
April 28, 2017
To complete my Field Experience, I assisted my preceptor from March through June of 2016 in developing the 2016 Minnesota Adolescent Sexual Health Report. The report is an annual publication that was formerly developed by Teenwise, but as of 2016 is now published by the Healthy Youth Development and Prevention Research Center (HYD-PRC). It is the only publication in the state that focuses specifically on the sexual health of youth ages 15-19. Included in the report are 3 major sexual health indicators – pregnancy rate, birth rate, and sexually transmitted infection (STI) rate. The report highlights sexual health disparities by race, geographic area, and sexual orientation. In addition, in 2016 Adverse Childhood Experiences were included in the report for the first time. Through providing statistics on current rates and ongoing health trends within a specific population, the Adolescent Sexual Health Report informs and guides public health professionals working to improve adolescent sexual health.
The project learning objectives were as follows:
- Apply knowledge of statistics and data synthesis to assist the organization in disseminating current, evidence-based information to the public and to policy-makers through web-based and print resources.
- Gain practical knowledge of evaluation and assessment activities.
- Obtain and apply grant writing skills, or assist with data analysis related to grant writing.
- Practice presenting data to professionals working in the field.
All learning objectives were met with the exception of grant writing skills. There was not an opportunity to meet this objective during the Field Experience project, as funding for the report had already been secured.
In order to compile the sexual health report and meet the learning objectives, I organized and synthesized data from the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Student Survey, created graphs and charts on health trends, practiced framing health data, redesigned the county-level report template, and assisted in presenting the report to professionals in the field. The report provides current statistics on adolescent sexual health, describes sexual health trends over time, and compares sexual health outcomes across population groups and areas of the state to highlight health disparities. I utilized Excel to organize the data and create charts, graphs, and tables for each health indicator. Using data from previous years, I calculated change in rates for birth rate, pregnancy rate, and STI rates.
An entire section of the report is devoted to health disparities and includes geographic disparities, racial/ethnic disparities, and sexual orientation disparities. By highlighting geographic disparities, the report seeks to reveal the differences between urban and rural MN, as well as how the demographics of different regions are impacted differently. I ranked county rates in order to list the ten counties with the highest rates of birth, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. In addition, I created pie charts in order to demonstrate how chlamydia and gonorrhea impact geographic areas differently. Chlamydia is found in every county in Minnesota, while Gonorrhea impacts certain areas more heavily than others. Racial disparities are also demonstrated in multiple ways visually and in text. I calculated race-stratified rates of birth, pregnancy, and STI rates and created bar graphs and pie charts to show how youth of color disproportionately experience negative sexual health outcomes. By including national birth rates stratified by race, section also reveals that disparities in MN are different than disparities within the U.S. as a whole.
In addition to the statewide Sexual Health Report, I created reports for each individual county in MN, and factsheets with extra data on specific health indicators. As a result of the transition from Teenwise to the HYD-PRC, the graphic design of the county reports needed to be redone. Using style guidelines provided by the HYD-PRC, I created a new template and set up a mail merge to transfer data from Excel into Word. Individual county reports contain data on birth and pregnancy rates, STI rates, prenatal care and birth weight, and sexual activity.
After the report was published, a training was held at Planned Parenthood to present the 2015 data and to discuss implications of the new data. I assisted with the presentation of the report and data.
The Healthy Youth Development Prevention Research Center is an academic research center that is primarily funded by the CDC and that is located on the U of M Minneapolis campus. The center is dedicated to learning about and implementing ways to reduce health disparities that exist among Minnesota’s young people. In addition to research, the HYD-PRC supports the youth-serving community by promoting best practices, evaluating program effectiveness, improving policies and systems, building public support for young people, advising community based organizations, and providing training. This report is directly related to the HYD-PRC’s mission through dissemination of information on youth health and health disparities and provision of recommendations for health improvement.
Throughout my field experience I learned a great deal about health trends in this population, factors impacting adolescent sexual health, and health disparities. I also learned about how such data is presented and specific definitions. For example, how exactly pregnancy rate is calculated and how to explain a rate to an audience. I gained experience in choosing how to visually represent data and data presentation issues that can arise from how data is collected. By working closely with communications staff, I began to learn how to frame health disparities to avoid victim-blaming language or promoting stereotypes. Finally, I had the opportunity to see firsthand how this information is both presented to and used by professionals working in the field.
After completing this field experience I recommend that the HYD-PRC continues to work to frame data well. How data is presented can be as important as the data itself. I recommend that new health disparities and other social determinants are explored in the future. By including data on other health determinants, a more complete picture of adolescent sexual health is created. I would also recommend that talking points, including more context and information on best practices, are provided to supplement the data. This would guide community leaders who wish to use the data to advocate for adolescent health, but who don’t have public health experience.
As the Adolescent Sexual Health Intern at the HYD-PRC, I gained experience synthesizing and presenting data in a way that informs professionals of nuanced social determinants and health disparities. This report will be used to foster and inform programming to continue the improvement of adolescent sexual health throughout the state.