SAN ANTONIO (July 14, 2015) ― Adolescents in Bexar County and throughout Texas will benefit from two grants totaling $13.75 million awarded to The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.
The grants will expand evidence-based programs provided by UT Teen Health, the university’s successful initiative that promotes healthy choices for adolescents. Kristen Plastino, M.D., associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, leads the program.
Since 2010, UT Teen Health has worked to decrease teen birth rates on San Antonio’s South Side. The original goal was to reduce teen birth rates by 10 percent within five years. However, that goal was surpassed in just three years. By 2013 UT Teen Health contributed to the decrease in the teen birth rate by 19 percent.
“What makes UT Teen Health different is that we work with each of our stakeholders to understand their needs and to customize a plan to fit their goals,” Dr. Plastino said. “With the new grants, we will continue to work with current partners and reach out to new stakeholders throughout the state that serve vulnerable youth. Some of those groups are health care facilities, school districts, churches and organizations that work with the juvenile justice system and foster care youth. We discuss sustainability from the very beginning to ensure that the programs we start will continue after the initial grant funding ends,” she said.
So far, more than 12,000 teens have benefitted from UT Teen Health. Approximately 300 community members from 22 stakeholder groups have been trained to implement the evidence-based programs with their youth.
UT Teen Health uses medically accurate information, social media and positive youth development to help adolescents become peer advocates. The teens share the facts with friends and family so that everyone has a consistent message that helps adolescents make healthy decisions to prevent pregnancy and plan for their future.
“We know that delaying sex is the healthiest choice for teens. Our first recommendation is always abstinence, until a person is in a long-term, committed, healthy relationship, and when they are physically and emotionally mature,” said Dr. Plastino, a practitioner at UT Medicine San Antonio, the School of Medicine’s faculty practice.
The new grants, awarded July 1, are from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s Office of Adolescent Health. “Because of UT Teen Health’s success and our experience with grant writing, organizations have asked us to take the lead in applying for grants to support the initiative,” Dr. Plastino added.
One of the two grants will support continuing partnerships and provide for expansion to a total of 17,550 Bexar County teens each year for five years. “We are reaching out to middle schools, high schools, after-school programs, faith-based organizations and are working with vulnerable youth, including expectant and parenting teens, youth in juvenile detention and in foster care,” she said.
The second grant will allow UT Teen Health to provide training, technical assistance and support to organizations outside of Bexar County that serve teens similarly at risk of early pregnancy. “These resources will help us build the capacity of others in order to reach many more Texas youth,” Dr. Plastino added.
The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of the elite academic cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designated Cancer Center, and is one of only four in Texas. A leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the CTRC Institute for Drug Development (IDD) conducts one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world, and participates in development of cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit www.ctrc.net.