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.
The Adolescent Health Project aims to increase sexual health knowledge of youth and improve health outcomes by providing barrier-free access to STD testing and treatment and highly effective forms of contraception to reduce STDs and unintended pregnancies, particularly among young people of all genders, ages 24 and younger.
Effective Sex Education
Age-appropriate, honest and complete information about sexual and reproductive health—including gender identity, sexual orientation, contraception, consent and healthy relationships—makes a difference in creating healthy outcomes for young people. Comprehensive sex education in schools, as well as open dialogue on these topics with trusted adults, is essential. If you are a parent/caregiver and want information on how to advocate for sex education that supports your students’ well-being, visit Advocates for Youth’s guide to understanding sex education in your school.
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, the mobilization of youth and the involvement of key community partners, Omaha Public Schools adopted new, inclusive, science-based HGD standards and new curricula that aligns with those standards. The HGD standards are grade-specific. The standards, with documents and curriculum pacing guides are available on the OPS website.
Currently, the Nebraska Department of Education is leading a group of educators and experts in development the Nebraska Health Education Standards. The standards, “Nebraska Health Education Standards,” create the first framework for K-12 health education in our state. The first draft was made available for public comment in March 2021 and provides a framework that supports student’s physical and emotional well-being and academic success. NDE is led by an elected board, who will ultimately vote on these health standards in the Fall. Learn more about how you can support these standards and use your voice to advocate for effective health education in Nebraska.
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.
Adolescent Health Project educators provide effective sex education to youth, parents and youth-serving professionals in community-based settings, school classrooms and faith communities. Many AHP educators are trained to be Askable Adult trainers; an initiative of the Women’s Fund that is training youth-serving professionals to be more knowledgeable on sexual health and better equipped to provide compassionate, warm referrals for sexual and reproductive health.
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 9 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 GetAccessGranted.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 Access Granted branded containers at health centers and 160+ 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.
More than 3 million condoms have been distributed since 2015.
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 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.
We are also working to reduce barriers to birth control for all Nebraskans through policy changes, such as LB 20 introduced by Senator Carol Blood. This bill would reduce interruptions in birth control, helping to reduce unintended pregnancy and abortion in Nebraska.
Trusting Women and Opposing Abortion Bans
LB 814, set to become a law in late 2020, banned a safe method of abortion and put politics between a woman and their doctor. Fundamentally, we trust women to make health care decisions that are best for herself and her family and will continue to ensure that all Nebraskans have access the health care they want and need.
This bill follows similar attacks on patient-physician relationships experienced in the 2019 legislative session with the passage of LB 209, forcing physicians to provide information to patients about “reversing” an abortion, that was not supported by science. Senator Megan Hunt introduced LB 872 to repeal the 2019 law and protect the safety of women and their relationship with their physician, but this effort did not advance out of committee.
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 GetAccessGranted.com.
Charles Drew Health Center, Inc.
Children’s Hospital & Medical Center
Choice Family Health Care
Community Action Partnership of Western Nebraska
Douglas County Health Department
Family Health Services
Good Neighbor Community Health Center
Mary Lanning Community Health Center
Midtown Health Center
Nebraska AIDS Project (NAP)
Nebraska Medicine at Girls Inc.
Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition, Inc. (NUIHC)
OneWorld Community Health Centers
People’s Family Health Services
Planned Parenthood North Central States
Pottawattamie County Public Health Department
Three Rivers Public Health Department
University of Nebraska at Omaha
Western Community Health Services