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WestEd: Healthy U

In July 2015, the HHS Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) awarded 84 Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program grants. WestEd was funded to conduct a rigorous evaluation of Healthy U, a promising new intervention delivered via a tablet-based app to prevent teen pregnancy. WestEd’s Justice & Prevention Research Center and Health & Human Development Program are collaborating with the Oregon Youth Authority (OYA) and the designer of the app, Efficacity, to develop and test this intervention specifically for justice-involved male youth.

  • In 2015, WestEd was awarded a grant from the HHS Office of Adolescent Heath (OAH) Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program to test an innovative new technology intervention, Healthy U—one of the first developed specifically for justice-involved male youth.
  • WestEd and their partners have actively engaged incarcerated youth in the development of Healthy U to ensure it resonates with them.
  • During a focus group, 18 of 20 young men ages 14-19 said they had never participated in any sort of sexual health education, either due to changing schools frequently or there being no formal health education services offered in the juvenile justice system.

During the staff trainings, multiple staff mentioned that they were excited to finally have a program where youth could learn about sexual health and decision-making—they recognized that most youth had never had that education.

“Healthy U changed my life.” — OYA youth

About WestEd and the Healthy U Program

WestEd is a non-profit research, development, and service agency that works with education and other communities to promote excellence, achieve equity, and improve learning for children, youth, and adults. WestEd is conducting a cluster randomized control trial to evaluate changes in sexual behavior, as well as knowledge and attitudes related to sexual behavior, for youth who participate in the Healthy U program as compared to other young males in the custody of the OYA who do not participate in Healthy U.

Healthy U is an innovative teen pregnancy prevention program delivered through a tablet app—one of the first such interventions designed specifically for young males in a juvenile justice environment. OYA staff facilitate the self-guided intervention by passing out tablets and answering any questions youth might have based on their Healthy U experience. Youth access the tablets during their free time or times designated by the facilitator, depending on their location.

Healthy U has activities such as video narratives from teens, games, and an imagination challenge that prompts youth to view their sexual decision-making as something that can affect their goals and health in the future. The content is medically accurate, inclusive, and trauma informed. 

Efficacity tailored the Healthy U app to the OYA environment, ensuring it can be accessed without the internet and that it will appeal to the target audience. Through the partnership with WestEd, OYA provided multiple opportunities to pilot specific aspects of Healthy U, obtained feedback from youth regarding the program, and strategized with the research team to develop a research design that is feasible to implement. Feedback from participants, for example, led to the name of the app being changed from Virtual Student Health Center to Healthy U, as the youth and OYA realized the importance of the concept of “school or university.”

Why It Matters

OAH’s funding for the Healthy U program is an investment in reducing teen pregnancy. The work that WestEd and their partners are doing in Oregon:

  • Serves a high-risk, high-need population. Incarcerated youth are separated from their parents or guardians and lack adequate access to information from trustworthy, knowledgeable adults during a critical period in their adolescent development. Three-quarters of incarcerated males in OYA have been diagnosed with a mental health disorder and nearly two-thirds have a history of drug or substance dependency. Not only can youth get information from the Healthy U app, but OYA staff who interact with youth on a daily basis are trained on the content so they can answer questions youth might have and refer them to appropriate services such as mental health and substance abuse services.
  • Builds evidence to fill an important gap in the knowledge base. There are few interventions designed specifically for adolescent and young adult males, and even fewer designed for young males in a juvenile justice environment. In light of the critical yet under-addressed role of young men in preventing teen pregnancy, it is important to engage them. WestEd is conducting a randomized control trial of Healthy U, the gold standard of research, to help expand the knowledge base about what is effective for this high-risk population.

“If I had taken Healthy U when I was 14 years old, I wouldn’t be a teen father today.” — OYA youth

WestEd by the Numbers

  • National Teen Birth Rate (2015*): 22 per 1,000 females ages 15-19
  • Male teens (ages 15-19) who have fathered a child (2015*): 10.4 per 1,000
  • Percentage of male juveniles in custody of the Oregon Youth Agency who are fathers (2016): 9 percent
  • Percentage of the eligible sample who have started Healthy U (2017): 95 percent
  • Program completion rate (2017): 100 percent

*reflects the most recent year for which data are available.

“I don’t have to track down youth for their Healthy U time, they come find me.” — OYA staff

For questions about the Healthy U study, please contact:

Anthony Petrosino
781-481-1117
apetros@wested.org

For questions about the Healthy U program, please contact:

Beth Wachter
917-513-0419
bethwachter@gmail.com
http://www.efficacity.org/

Print the full success story here.

About the Office of Adolescent Health TPP Program

The OAH Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program is a national, evidence-based program that funds diverse organizations working to prevent teen pregnancy across the United States. OAH invests in the implementation of programs identified as evidence-based by the HHS Teen Pregnancy Prevention Evidence Review, and provides funding to develop and evaluate new and innovative approaches to prevent teen pregnancy.

Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on October 5, 2017