North Carolina Division of Public Health, Women's Health Branch
Young Families Connect in North Carolina (2014)
Young Families Connect (YFC): Engaging Communities serves expectant and parenting teens and young adults in five counties across North Carolina including Bladen, Onslow, Rockingham, Robeson, and Wayne. Originally called Young Moms Connect, the Women’s Branch of the North Carolina Division of Public Health expanded the program this funding year to engage and provide services to young fathers. The program was initially developed to address relatively high (compared to the state rate) infant mortality rates in the funded counties as well as teen pregnancy and repeat teen pregnancy rates that were higher than the state rate.1 Furthermore, the rate of child maltreatment was greater than the state rate in four of the five counties in 2010, with Onslow County having a rate twice as high as the state’s.2 The program expanded to serve young fathers in part because compared to women, men ages 18-24 are less likely to have a postsecondary degree and the employment rate for men is lower than the state rate in all five counties.3 Further, adolescent fathers earn less annually than those who delay fathering and are therefore not as prepared to contribute financially to the well-being of their children; low socioeconomic status has been tied with many risk factors for children including poor nutrition and low-quality child care.4,5
Designed to increase self-sufficiency, improve health and wellness, and improve parenting skills among expectant and parenting young women and men, YFC offers a range of services for expectant and parenting families. These services include providing financial assistance to complete the General Education Development (GED) test or facilitating continuing education at a community college or technical program. In addition, assistance is provided to help with securing employment, reducing child care costs, and providing transportation services to those obtaining a GED or enrolled in a community college. The program’s health and wellness services include financial support with medical services, health and wellness training, and domestic violence prevention workshops.
The Women’s Branch of the North Carolina Division of Public Health experienced impressive results with Young Moms Connect, including a 36 percent increase in home-based visiting participants who enrolled in a continuing education program or who are employed, and a 4 percent increase in high school graduation rates in the funded counties. Though the Division just began implementing the expanded version of the program for expectant and parenting men in February of this year, they are hopeful that with promising strategies, they will see equally notable results. Such strategies include using social media and public education channels to reduce barriers to existing services and promote healthy behaviors, as well as partnering with local health departments, social service agencies, lay outreach workers, faith-based communities, and domestic violence agencies to enhance systems of care to better help young parents become self-sufficient. This involves improving coordination of care and ensuring that providers understand the needs of expectant and parenting teens. Additionally, the program will implement a community-based needs assessment to identify community-specific support services for each county.
Promoting Healthy Lifestyles for Young Moms through Social Media (2013)
The Young Moms Connect (YMC) program provides services to over 1,000 pregnant/parenting women ages 13-24 in five counties. According to the 2012 County Health Rankings, the percent of uninsured citizens in the five YMC counties was almost double that of the national benchmark of 11%. The NC State Center for Health Statistics reported three of the five YMC counties in the top 50 counties (of 100 counties) for teen pregnancy rates in 2011. The Young Moms Connect program also promotes six maternal health best practices in the YMC counties and throughout the state through training, public information and education activities. These best practices are: 1) reproductive life planning, 2) smoking cessation using the 5A’s counseling method, 3) promotion of healthy weight, 4) early entry and adequate utilization of prenatal care, 5) domestic violence prevention, and 6) utilization of medical homes for non-pregnant women.
Using funds from the Office of Adolescent Health Pregnancy Assistance Fund, the North Carolina Division of Public Health/Women’s Health Branch partners with many state and local agencies, including the North Carolina Healthy Start Foundation (NCHSF) to implement the YMC program. Their partnership with the NCHSF allows for broad distribution of critical health information to pregnant and parenting young women. Using social marketing and media outreach, pregnant and parenting women between the ages of 13-24 receive health and safety information/resources for themselves or their child(ren) related to the six maternal health best practices mentioned above. The following methods are being used to communicate this valuable information:
- The YMC website was launched in June of 2011 following several months of testing and focus groups. The easy-to-use design is aimed at attracting and engaging young women between the ages of 13 and 24. The website, www.YoungMomsConnect.org, received 9,322 total inclusive page views, 5,860 of which were unique page views, from August 2011-August 2012.
- The YMC “TextMOMS” texting service created a two way communications channel with young moms in the five counties. Each text was followed up with information about local resources. Radio ads promoting the “TextMOMS” texting service aired in five markets from June 2012-August 2012 with a total of 406,700 estimated viewers. All ads aired for an average of eight weeks. From August 2011-September 2012, Text MOMS received 816 text inquiries from 155 individuals. The questions were primarily related to prenatal care, breast feeding, parenting, birth control and healthy relationships.
- Three television ads for the YMC program were also created: an ad for the free text service “Text4Baby,” “Be the Better You,” and “Make a Plan.” The “Be the Better You” ad focused on healthy choices for pregnant and parenting young mothers, including nutrition, smoking cessation, and physical activity. The “Make a Plan” ad focused on reproductive life planning. The television ad for Text4Baby aired spring and summer of 2012 in six markets on seven stations, with a total of 1,255,603 estimated viewers. This contributed to the increase of new enrollees in the Text4Baby texting service from North Carolina. A total of 9,949 new North Carolina participants enrolled during the time period ads were advertised . The “Be the Better You” television ad aired in three markets on four stations for the period of April 2012-May 2012. The estimated viewing audience was not determined for this period. All ads aired for an average of four weeks. The “Make a Plan” television ad aired from June 2012-August 2012 in seven markets on six stations, with an estimated viewing audience of 1,014,028. All ads aired for an average of four-nine weeks, targeting women ages 12-24 years of age. Additionally, “Make a Plan” was evaluated in August 2012 by a leading provider of full-service research, custom online panels, online communities, and data collection services.
A web-based survey was conducted among North Carolina females ages 15 to 24 to evaluate the “Make a Plan” television ad. The pre-advertisement exposure results indicate that three-quarters of the target group (females in NC ages 15-24) had heard of a reproductive life plan and four out of ten remembered seeing, or think they may have seen, the television ad. The post-advertisement exposure indicated that the two main messages received from the television ad include planning and choices/decisions. The message of the TV ad was understood, with nearly all (95%) agreeing that having a reproductive life/life plan is a good idea. Overall, young women felt the television ad did a good job relating to its target audience, with nearly three-quarters reporting that they somewhat relate to the people in the ad. Additionally, www.YoungMomsConnect.org won the 2012 Grand Prize for websites developed by nonprofit agencies at the 24th Annual Awards for Publications Excellence (APEX) competition.
Tanya Bass, Program Coordinator
NC Division of Public Health Women’s Health Branch
Phone: (919) 707-5683
Lolita Smith Moore, Education and Outreach Coordinator, Young Moms Connect
NC Division of Public Health Women’s Health Branch
Phone: (919) 828-1819
Content last reviewed on January 26, 2016