Nationally, teens and parents have limited access to consistent, comprehensive sexual health education. Due to underperforming schools, poor amenities and services, and high crime rates, teen residents of public housing are particularly vulnerable to early/unintended pregnancy, STIs, harassment, intimate partner and/or sexual violence, and exploitation. Teens of color and poorer teens are more likely to become pregnant and give birth, and father a child than other American teens. In Washington, DC—the site for the proposed project—teen birth rates are 40 per 1,000 young women compared to 25 per 1,000 nationally. Within the high poverty areas of Washington, DC, teen birth rates are twice as high as in the city overall.
Public housing is one of the last sources of large, affordable units in most cities and, as a result, is home to a disproportionately large number of vulnerable children and youth of color. Historically, this group has been left out of or marginalized by the research process and, in the worst instances, has been coerced or harmed by research without proper consent or compensation. As a result, many clinical sexual health interventions are based on research that did not engage marginalized patient communities or incorporate their needs and circumstances into the research process.
This project will build upon over seven years of collaboration with a network of patient partners including the Washington, DC Housing Authority (DCHA), residents from several DCHA housing sites, DC Department of Health, Unity Health Care, and several youth-serving agencies. The work will take place primarily in community centers located at the public housing developments the Urban Institute has been partnering with. Urban Institute staff will manage the project and individuals from Sasha Bruce Youthwork, Exodus, and the Kenilworth Parkside Resident Management Corporation will be lead partners from the community.
The aim of the project is to improve adolescent sexual health outcomes and reduce health disparities for marginalized youth and hard-to-reach populations. The project team’s main goal is to inform future comparative clinical effectiveness research on adolescent sexual health by incorporating the input and direct engagement of the patient community.