Through a unique collaboration between Planned Parenthood and the Los Angeles Unified School District schools like Roosevelt High School’s health clinic now offer birth control, pregnancy tests, counseling and screening for sexually transmitted diseases. The services are free and confidential and making a difference.
Birth rates among teenagers have dropped throughout California and Los Angeles County over the last several years. Statewide, the rate of births to teenagers 15 to 19 hit a record low in 2010 at 29 births for every 1,000, down from 37 in 2005. But despite the decline, there are still certain areas within the county with disproportionately higher numbers of young mothers, according to the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. The heavily Latino and low-income neighborhood around Roosevelt High School is one of them. Several other neighborhoods in East and South Los Angeles also had higher percentages of teenage births than the rest of the county.
“All areas of LAUSD are not created equal,” said Christine De Rosa, who works on adolescent health for the HIV and STD division of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. “Rates vary according to high school attendance areas.”
The health center, which is separate from the school nurse’s office, also serves as a primary care clinic, providing physicals and administering immunizations. This school year, about half of the visits have been for reproductive health.
By law students can access the services without parental permission which means they are more likely to actually use the services. Nurse practitioner Sherry Medrano, who runs the Roosevelt health clinic, said teenagers rarely go outside their comfort zone for family planning. “They feel much safer and much more comfortable coming to a school-based health clinic,” she said.
Planned Parenthood’s Los Angeles executive director, Sue Dunlap, said Latino families generally want access to information and care. “We really don’t experience the traditional narrative of angry parents not wanting access to reproductive care in the schools,” she said. “It’s really the opposite.”
What an excellent example of good public health collaboration grounded in science, community outreach, and a shared vision of social justice and uplift. Here’s hoping it can stay afloat.
Photo from martinak via flickr.