By: John-Paul Hayworth, Executive Director
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure to serve as a panelist at the first in-person convening of the Leadership Exchange for Adolescent Health Promotion (LEAHP) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Our State Board of Education (SBOE) developed and approved some of the most comprehensive health education standards in the country in 2017, so it was a great opportunity to share our story with five state teams of government education and health officials, non-profit leaders, and practitioners and collaborate with them to address adolescent health in three priority areas: sexual health education, sexual health services, and safe and supportive environments. D.C. has one of the five teams in this first cohort of the LEAHP project (others are Massachusetts, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin).
The panel I was a part of focused on how to work with state and local policymakers to develop policy systems in which all students can thrive and have what they need to be safe, healthy and supported in school. Panelists shared best practices, common challenges and strategies to overcome them, and real-world success stories. I spoke about how to initiate, foster and maintain relationships with policymakers and their staff. We also discussed the “ick factor” that can limit or stymie vital conversations around topics that are uncomfortable for some people including sexual activity, mental health and LGBTQ issues.
The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) and Child Trends, in partnership with the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE), established LEAHP. Participants of LEAHP benefit from peer-to-peer collaboration, in-depth training from subject matter experts, access to scientific research and data, and concentrated, state-specific technical assistance.
For more information about youth health in D.C. and nationwide check out these links: NASBE’s State Policy Database on School Health, D.C.’s existing Youth Sexual Health Plan, and OSSE’s latest data reports on the District’s findings with the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey.