UNLV is leading a communitywide effort to combat rising teen pregnancy rates in Southern Nevada.
"Nevada leads the nation in teen pregnancy, and it's critical we come together as a community and find effective ways to address an issue that is greatly affecting our youth," said Melva Thompson-Robinson, project lead and executive director of the Center for Health Disparities Research at UNLV. "It's also important to understand the allure of 'Sin City' and the effect this type-casting has on those growing up in Las Vegas."
As part of a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the center is partnering with local churches and nonprofits to launch a pregnancy prevention program targeting African American youth -- a group disproportionately affected by teen pregnancy. Births by 15- to 19-year-olds have increased steadily since 2005, with one in 10 U.S. births involving a teen mother.
Building on Success
During the eight-week program, teens will learn about safe sex, discuss the risks and myths associated with HIV/AIDS, and develop communication skills through role-playing scenarios based on stressful situations that often lead to poor decision making.
The program is modeled after Becoming a Responsible Teen (BART), a HIV/AIDS prevention effort that helps teens understand risk factors associated with becoming sexually active and improves their ability to navigate high-pressure situations.
BART is based on social learning theory, which supports the idea that teens can act to avoid problems if they're exposed to alternatives and have the opportunity to work through and discuss difficult issues among their peers.
The center will kick off the project with a community summit this spring, followed by BART training in at least 15 participating local churches. Program partners include:
- Education for Quality Living
- Community Partners for Better Health
- First African Methodist Episcopal Church
The Center for Health Disparities Research is housed within the UNLV School of Community Health Sciences and conducts academic and community-based research used to develop public health programming and guide public policy to eliminate health disparities in Southern Nevada.