Sexual Literacy

All women deserve the right to decide if, when and how to start a family.

This requires access—to comprehensive sex education as well as unrestricted access to sexual and reproductive health services. Young people deserve access to medically accurate, comprehensive sex education in order to make informed decisions for their futures. Access matters.

In Douglas County, rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among young people ages 15 to 24 are notably higher than they are in the state of Nebraska—or even nationwide. Adolescents in our community continue to report epidemic rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia specifically.

This is why, after careful research, including community conversations and planning by the Women’s Fund and other stakeholders, the Adolescent Health Project launched in 2015. Donors have invested nearly $6 million toward the development and implementation of community-wide changes.

The Adolescent Health Project aims to increase sexual health knowledge of youth and improve health outcomes by providing unrestricted access to STD testing and treatment and highly effective forms of contraception to reduce STDs and unintended pregnancies, particularly among youth, ages 24 and younger.

Comprehensive Sex Education

Accurate, honest and complete information about sexual and reproductive health—including gender identity, sexual orientation and contraception—makes a difference in reducing STD rates and unintended pregnancy. Comprehensive sex education in schools, as well as open dialogue on these topics with trusted adults, is essential.

Until 2016, there had been no major update of the Omaha Public School Human Growth & Development (HGD) curriculum in 30 years. With support and guidance from the Women’s Fund and other community partners, Omaha Public Schools adopted new, current and comprehensive HGD standards and a curriculum based on the National Sexual Education Standards. The HGD standards are grade-specific. The standards, with documents and curriculum pacing guides are available on the OPS website.

Increased Access to Free STD Testing & Treatment

STD rates among young people, ages 15 to 24, are notably higher in Douglas County than they are in the state of Nebraska or nationwide. Adolescents in our community continue to report epidemic rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia specifically.

The Women’s Fund invests grants in local organizations that are working to increase the availability of free STD testing and treatment. Private donors provide funding for the grants.

In 2016, Adolescent Health Project grantees significantly increased the number of sites offering evening and weekend STD testing, with several organizations doubling or tripling the number of hours they offer testing each week. The number of STD tests completed by grantees doubled from 2014 to 2016.

All organizations receiving these grants have committed to creating or expanding programs benefiting all genders, ages 15 to 24, in the areas of STD testing, STD treatment and condom distribution. By increasing the accessibility of free testing and treatment, we will create sustainable, community-wide changes in the sexual knowledge and health of Omaha’s youth.

Outreach & Education

Meeting young people where they are—and educating them about sexual and reproductive health and where services can be accessed—is critical.

Outreach staff attend local events to engage with young people in environments where they feel comfortable. Optimally, outreach and education are combined with access to free condoms and free STD testing. In 2016, Adolescent Health Project outreach staff connected with 48,205 individuals at area events.

The 10 local organizations that have received grants for their work in unintended teen pregnancy prevention and STD testing have steadily accelerated their outreach and education efforts throughout the community.

Learn more at www.GetCheckedOmaha.com.

Community-Wide Condom Distribution

Through the Adolescent Health Project, the Women’s Fund began community-wide distribution of free condoms in January 2016. Condom distribution programs have been proven to increase condom use, prevent HIV/STDs and save money by reducing STD rates and unintended pregnancies.

Our grantees distribute condoms in Get Checked Omaha branded containers at health centers and more than 200 locations where young people frequent—such as coffee shops, clothing boutiques, restaurants, bars, hair salons and college campuses. There’s no age requirement—anyone can get free condoms without judgement.

The number of free condoms distributed increased from nearly 42,000 in 2015 to more than one million in 2018.

Access to Birth Control

Providing birth control at no cost is proven to reduce unintended pregnancies. When women have the ability to choose if and when to start a family, the whole community benefits. Access to birth control allows women to increase their chances of finishing school, find a good job and ultimately, have the opportunity to reach their full potential and achieve economic self-sufficiency.

The Women’s Fund of Omaha began funding free birth control at four clinics in the Omaha area in July 2016 and expanded funding statewide in July 2017.

The number of women using long-acting reversible contraception nearly tripled in the past year. And although birth rates for 15 to 19-year-olds have decreased over time, racial and ethnic disparities in teen birth rates persist in Douglas County.

Lesbian, gay and bisexual teens are experiencing higher rates of unintended pregnancy than their heterosexual peers. Intervention efforts need to be inclusive to meet the needs of all youth. The Adolescent Health Project is committed to health equity; all young people should have the opportunity to make the choices that allow them to live a long, healthy life, regardless of their income, education, racial/ethnic background or immigration status.

Communicating with Young People

Open and honest conversations about healthy relationships, consent and sex can help young people make the decision to postpone sex and avoid STDs and unintended pregnancy.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends talking to youth as early as age 9 about sex, with discussions about healthy relationships even earlier. Creating an approachable environment for young people is key.

Communication is an important component of sexual literacy, and parents and teachers alike need to become “askable adults” for young people. Having positive home, school and community environments are significant protective facts in preventing negative sexual health outcomes. Askable adults create safe, affirming spaces where youth feel comfortable asking questions and having ongoing conversations about these topics.

There are many resources available to help adults increase their comfort level and knowledge base for effective conversation around sex and healthy relationships. Check out the parent/caregiver resources at www.BirdsBeesandSTDs.com.

Our Partners

Charles Drew Health Center, Inc. (CDHC)

Douglas County Health Department

Nebraska AIDS Project (NAP)

Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition, Inc. (NUIHC)

North Omaha Area Health, Inc. (NOAH)

OneWorld Community Health Centers

Planned Parenthood of the Heartland

Nebraska Medicine at Girls Inc

University of Nebraska at Omaha

Erin Bock
The Sherwood Foundation

Rev. Portia Cavitt
Clair Memorial United Methodist Church

Renee Claborn
Building Healthy Futures

Megan Connelly
Children’s Physicians

Brenda J. Council
Women’s Fund of Omaha

Roger Garcia
Centro Latino Of Council Bluffs

Dr. Amanda Holman
Creighton University

Mary Larsen
March of Dimes

Rev. Craig Loya
Trinity Episcopal

Dr. Karen Spencer May
Omaha Public Schools

Donald Neal 
KPMG US

Kerri Peterson
The Sherwood Foundation

Dr. Adi Pour
Douglas County Health Department

Dr. Tifany Somer-Shely
Nebraska Methodist Health System

Sarah Sjolie
Livewell Omaha

Dr. Melissa Tibbits
UNMC, COPH

Dr. Deborah Turner
Planned Parenthood

Jeanee Weiss
Building Healthy Futures

Roberta Wilhelm
Girls, Inc.

Michelle Zych
Women’s Fund of Omaha