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TAG in Action: Chicago's Citywide Adolescent Health Efforts

As part of its national call to action, Adolescent Health: Think, Act, Grow® (TAG), the Office of Adolescent Health, in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service has identified a number of successful strategies for improving adolescent health throughout the country.

The Goal

In an effort to reach more teens across the city, the Chicago Public School (CPS) and the Chicago Department of Public Health’s (CDPH) Office of Adolescents and School Health partnered to develop public awareness campaigns and programs that would complement their existing, evidence-based Teen Outreach Program® (TOP) model.

The Game Plan

Building upon the classroom and community service learning components of TOP, CDPH created a cross-functional collaboration with experts in other disciplines to develop:

  • The city-wide Action Plan for Healthy Adolescents which identifies 40 measurable health targets as well as 65 strategies that will be implemented by CDPH and its partners;
  • The Condom Availability Program, which makes free condoms available at participating public high schools and school-based health centers and includes complimentary mobile health apps to connect students to health resources;
  • An innovative public awareness campaigns; and
  • A teen health hotline.

Youth were involved throughout the process. For example, a teenage boy inspired the Condom Availability Program. He had taken hundreds of condoms from the school health office and sold them to his friends. He was so much more effective than other approaches that his idea was developed and branded as a strategy called “Teen Health Agents.” Youth also helped develop the “Unexpected?” public awareness campaign which challenged gender stereotypes by depicting pregnant boys. Not surprisingly, the campaign tested poorly with adults, but it got the attention of its target audience and the media. The campaign went viral worldwide, earning more than 1 billion media impressions.

The Winning Plays

Chicago knew that youth are essential partners in improving health outcomes for teens, and learned a few lessons, including:

  • Know your audience. (P.S. It’s not you).
  • Ideas are not enough; you have to execute or build the team that can.
  • Solutions already exist, just not where you think.
  • Tokenize youth at your peril. They are not the objects of your work, they are your partners!

See and Hear TAG in Action

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Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on December 15, 2017