Professor Delivers Keynote at Teen Pregnancy Conference.
“We didn’t get here alone; we’re not going to get out of here alone.” That was the central point in the opening keynote delivered by Sophie Godley at the 2016 Health and Human Services Teen Pregnancy Prevention Grantee Conference, held in Baltimore from July 19 to 21.
“We’ve thought of sexual health for way too long as the ‘bad’ actions of individuals,” says Godley, clinical assistant professor of community health sciences. “That one ‘bad’ girl behaved that way and that’s why she became pregnant, or that one gay man was being ‘promiscuous’ and that’s how he got HIV.”
Before the audience of 1,000 providers from across the US states, territories, and tribes, Godley urged a public health perspective, looking at teen pregnancy as a complex issue requiring broad collaboration. “We have to look at the community context,” she says, “and to solve the problem we need to work with the community.”
Godley stressed the importance of relationships between stakeholders, and with young people—relationships that must be based on mutuality, respect, and authenticity, she told the audience, “just like we tell our youth.” She went on to describe how to build those relationships, and outlined the barriers that must be overcome.
That also means paying attention to what young people are up to, she says: “Understanding Pokémon Go matters.”
Godley says she is excited to see this focus on broad collaboration in teen pregnancy prevention, and other developments in the field she saw illustrated during the conference. That includes a plenary with four LGBT youth of color: “This is a population that we are not working with effectively, so we’re going to put them literally front and center, and we’re going to let them tell their stories,” Godley says. “We didn’t even use to acknowledge that queer kids were at risk for teen pregnancy.”
Another exciting development, she says, was running into her former students Cecilia Vu (’15) and Justine Egan (’12) at the conference—both there to present on Massachusetts projects, and now her colleagues in the field.
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