Everyone deserves the right to decide if, when and how to become a parent.
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 infections (STIs) 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 STI testing and treatment and highly effective forms of contraception to reduce STIs 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.
The Nebraska Department of Education engaged a group of educators (teachers, administrators, ESU staff, postsecondary representatives) in developing Nebraska Health Education Standards to create the framework for K-12 health education in our state. After releasing a second draft of the standards, “Nebraska Health Education Standards,” in July 2021 that were a complete departure from what medical experts, education professionals and decades of research identify as effective health education, the Board voted to pause the process in September 2021. NDE is led by an elected board, who will ultimately vote on these health education standards. Your advocacy on this issue is important to ensure all students have access to health education that is effective, inclusive and complete. Learn more about how you can support young people and use your voice to advocate for effective health education in Nebraska.
As a public health issue, it is paramount that sexual violence prevention strategies be implemented within institutions and systems, including learning environments. Education is a primary prevention tool in creating a world free from gender-based violence. With local collaborations, the Sexual Violence Prevention Educator’s Guide was developed to provide educators with the necessary framework, concepts and resources for how to best engage with students about sexual violence prevention.
Increased Access to Free STI Testing & Treatment
STI 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 STI 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 STI testing, with several organizations doubling or tripling the number of hours they offer testing each week. The number of STI 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 STI testing, STI 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 STI testing. From July 2021 to June 2022, Adolescent Health Project outreach staff connected with 41,005 individuals at area events.
The 9 local organizations that have received grants for their work in unintended teen pregnancy prevention and STI 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/STIs and save money by reducing STI 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 4.3 million condoms have been distributed since 2015.
Access to Birth Control
Providing birth control at no cost is proven to reduce unintended pregnancies. When people have the ability to choose if, when and how to become a parent, the whole community benefits. Access to birth control allows people 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. At the end of 2022, this program was successfully offboarded to Nebraska Family Planning.
We continue to work on reducing barriers to birth control for all Nebraskans through policy changes. Join our collective movement to protect and expand reproductive rights at www.NebraskansForAbortionAccess.com.
Trusting Pregnant People and Opposing Abortion Bans
Fundamentally, we believe that everyone should be able to make the personal health care decisions that impact their lives, health and futures without political interference. Collectively, we continue to reject further restrictions on abortions whenever anti-abortion politicians try to insert their personal beliefs into our health care.
To learn more about how to advocate for abortion access, join the movement at www.NebraskansForAbortionAccess.com.
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 STIs 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.
Sexual Violence Prevention Educator's Guide
Educators play a vital role in sexual violence prevention, and students deserve a world free from sexual violence and an education that supports sexual violence prevention efforts. As a public health issue, it is paramount that sexual violence prevention strategies be implemented within institutions and systems, including learning environments.
Education is a primary prevention tool in creating a world free from gender-based violence. The Sexual Violence Prevention Educator’s Guide was developed to provide educators with the necessary framework, concepts and resources for how to best engage with students about sexual violence prevention.
Charles Drew Health Center, Inc.
Children’s Hospital & Medical Center
Douglas County Health Department
Nebraska AIDS Project (NAP)
Nebraska Medicine at Girls Inc.
Nebraska Medicine – University Health Center at UNL
Nebraska Medicine – UNO Health Center
Nebraska Urban Indian Health Coalition, Inc. (NUIHC)
OneWorld Community Health Centers
Planned Parenthood North Central States
University of Nebraska at Omaha