What are the goals of this project?
The goal of this project is to create and evaluate MyHealthEd, a tailored online sexual health curriculum that increases sexual health knowledge and decreases risky sexual behaviors among middle and high school students in rural North Carolina, thereby decreasing rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Once shown to be effective, Liz and Vichi plan to offer this program to public schools across the state and to expand MyHealthEd to include all additional health topics covered in the North Carolina Essential Standards for Health Education.
Why is this research important?
Even though the Healthy Youth Act of 2009 requires comprehensive sexual health to be taught at each NC public school, currently, not all students receive comprehensive sexual health education in North Carolina. This contributes to to disproportionately high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in rural parts of the state. Recently, the North Carolina General Assembly approved Senate Bill 132, mandating that K through 9 curriculum include scientifically inaccurate information on safe abortion care; teachers would be required to teach students about the so-called link between abortion and pre-term deliveries that evidence does not support. In order to prevent prevent pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections among teens in the first place, it is critical that we transform sexual health education in North Carolina because it is the only primary prevention strategy all middle and high school students are exposed to.
How will the funds be used?
Liz and Vichi will use the funds to create a sexual health curriculum that students can access via the internet. At the start of the MyHealthEd course, students will log in and complete a questionnaire on health knowledge and behaviors. Based on their individual survey responses, the software will then generate a curriculum tailored to each student. The students will then work through a series of interactive modules that will also assess sexual health knowledge and behaviors along the way. Not only will MyHealthEd improve sexual health outcomes, but it will also contribute to the evidence base on the effectiveness of tailored on-line curricula in preventing teen pregnancy and STIs. Liz and Vichi plan to have a prototype of MyHealthEd's sexual health curriculum ready to pilot in five rural public schools by January 2014. MyHealthEd will have pre- and post-assessments built into the curriculum, so it will be possible to evaluate the effectiveness of the intervention in changing sexual health knowledge and behaviors.