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Jackson County Health Department (JCHD) in southern Illinois has been providing public health services since 1950. The health department's mission is to "promote health, prevent illness, protect our environment, and prepare for emergencies." JCHD has a long history of providing sexual health programming, including sexually transmitted disease (STD) surveillance, testing, and treatment; HIV testing and services; and family planning services, including STD screening.
Jackson County also has a long history of elevated rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea. A number of barriers exist that make it difficult to provide STD education and testing, including a lack of awareness, concerns about confidentiality, the rural nature of the community, a lack of comprehensive sexual health education in many schools, reluctance among both youth and providers to talk openly about sexual matters and STDs in particular, and the difficulty of reaching young people who are not in school settings.
In response to the increasing rates of chlamydia and gonorrhea, JCHD has implemented several new initiatives.
In 2008–2009, with funding received from the Illinois Department of Health, JCHD worked with a local high school to develop a Myspace page targeted to teens in order to provide STD information and resources. JCHD was also able to enhance partner counseling services for positive gonorrhea and chlamydia cases.
Concurrently, JCHD engaged in a community health planning process with various community health organizations, health care providers, and community partners. The process identified STDs as one of the three health priorities for the community to address in 2010-2015. A Sexual Health Action Team was formed, with members representing Southern Illinois University (SIU) Wellness Center, high schools and middle schools, local health care providers, and community members. The action team developed a plan for reducing STD rates in Jackson County, including strategies to "increase the proportion of sexually active females age 25 years and under who are screened annually for genital chlamydia infections."
In order to identify existing practices related to chlamydia screening, JCHD surveyed primary care practitioners in the community. As a result of the survey, a program was developed for physicians and other health care providers to raise awareness and explore barriers to screening for chlamydia. JCHD had medical students and public health interns develop and provide the program. The program included providing physicians with local incidence data, information about screening optionsincluding a copy of "Why Screen for Chlamydia?" (courtesy of the National Chlamydia Coalition [NCC])and resources on expedited partner therapy. Program facilitators also offered the opportunity for physicians to determine intentions around screening and to develop strategies for overcoming the barriers to screening. Evaluation of this project is underway, but all health care providers indicated an intention to increase screening and many intended to begin using urine testing more frequently. Funding for portions of this programming was provided through NCC.
Recently, JCHD was chosen as one of the nine sites to receive a grant from the CDC to promote GYT: Get Yourself Tested, a national campaign designed to empower youth and promote and normalize testing for STDs for those 25 years old and younger. (Go to www.itsyoursexlife.com/gyt/ to learn more.) As part of this campaign, JCHD is conducting a social marketing campaign called "GYT4SSGet Yourself Tested 4 Safer Sex" that will increase chlamydia screening among young, sexually active women and men age 15–25 by raising awareness of the importance of testing and providing free tests on a walk-in basis at screening events and at several facilities in the community. JCHD is using GYT materials provided by the national campaign and tailoring them with information about local sites and events for testing. Key messages include: "Get testedit's easy, you don't even have to talk to a provider!"; "Get talking to your partners"; "Use condoms for protection"; "This is what sexually active people doit's normal and healthy"; and "Don't be the one who finds out you infected someone else."
STD screening and education was provided at SIU Carbondale’s Health and Nutrition Fair on March 23, 2011. The booth was staffed by JCHD and SIU student health peer mentors.
Partnering with the Wellness Center at SIU, John A. Logan Community College, Carbondale Community High School, and Attucks Community Services, JCHD is providing urine-based screening for chlamydia and gonorrhea using a drop-off testing model, where youth do not need to see a provider to be screened for these diseases. GYT4SS is using a peer mentor program in place at SIU to promote GYT4SS messages and provide education about sexual health at the university and in the community. Support, through free screening materials and laboratory tests, is being provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health's STD Section for the increased testing associated with this campaign.
Articles, press releases, and public service announcements are being submitted to the newspapers that target youth: the Daily Egyptian (SIU's student newspaper) and Nightlife (a local entertainment weekly newspaper). Partnering agencies are distributing campaign materials to their students and community members. Safer sex kits containing key messages and condoms will be distributed to businesses serving teens and young adults, such as tattoo parlors, beauty and barber shops, and tanning facilities. A Facebook page has been developed for the campaign, and Twitter will be used to communicate about screening events.
Jackson County Health Department
P.O. Box 307
Murphysboro, IL 62966
Contact: Angie Bailey, ext. 134
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