Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Peer Advocates for Health: A Community-Based Program to Improve Reproductive Health Knowledge and Lifestyle Choices among Adolescent Males

Academic journal article International Journal of Men's Health

Peer Advocates for Health: A Community-Based Program to Improve Reproductive Health Knowledge and Lifestyle Choices among Adolescent Males

Article excerpt

Peer Advocates for Health is a community-based program to increase reproductive health knowledge and improve lifestyle choices among African American adolescent males. This study examines program impact on knowledge, clinic utilization, communication, and condom use among participants. PAH provided training, support, and employment experience to 75 African American males from 15 Chicago high schools, who reached 4,000 adolescents in their own communities, providing information and condoms. Mean age at intake was 15.9; all were in school, unmarried, and living at home. One-third reported never having sex; only one had fathered a child. After one year, knowledge, utilization of clinic services, and communication with partners and peers increased significantly. Condom use remained high, and condom self-efficacy increased. Results suggest that, to impact behaviors and lifestyles of high-risk adolescents, programs must provide not only education but also long-term follow-up and support in the context of everyday lives.

Keywords: adolescent males, community-based programs for males, reproductive health, condom use

The 1990s brought a renewed awareness of reproductive health issues for males and an increased recognition of the roles and responsibilities of the male partner (Schulte & Sonnenstein, 1995). The globalization of HIV and AIDS during the past two decades has highlighted the importance of male sexual behavior and condom use in relation to the health of both partners (AVSC, 1999). The impact of male attitudes and behavior upon the reproductive health of both partners is especially critical among adolescent populations, particularly those adolescents who live in worlds with little structure and few resources. Increasingly, empirical research suggests that men who are informed and educated about reproductive health issues are more likely to support their partners' decisions about family planning and contraceptive methods (Grady, Tanfer, & Lincoln-Hanson, 1996; Fee & Youssef, 1993), yet access to reproductive health information and services is limited for many young men growing up in low-income, inner-city neighborhoods in the U.S. (Guttmacher Institute, 2002; Male Advocacy Network, 2002; Shultze & Sonenstein, 1995; Shirk, 1997). Unlike female adolescents, who generally access information and enter the health system with menstruation or pregnancy, adolescent males living in underserved neighborhoods may have contact with a healthcare provider once a year for a school physical or in a hospital emergency room (Male Advocacy Network, 2002). African American adolescent boys have been shown to be less knowledgeable about sexual health and have less positive attitudes about condoms than their female counterparts (St. Lawrence, 1993). Their source of reproductive information and gender norms is often the "street," where females tend to be viewed as "sexual targets" rather than partners in a healthy relationship.

THE PEER ADVOCATES FOR HEALTH PROGRAM

This paper describes "Peer Advocates for Health" (PAH), a community-based program designed to increase reproductive health knowledge and improve lifestyle choices among adolescent males recruited from inner-city neighborhoods in Chicago. Between 2000 and 2004, 75 African American males, ages 14-17, from 15 high schools on the south side of Chicago were enrolled in the program. This study examines the impact of PAH program participation on knowledge, clinic utilization, communication, and condom use among adolescent male participants. Peer Advocates for Health is a five-year demonstration project supported by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Region V, Office of Family Planning. Broad goals of this pilot effort are, first, to determine if adolescent males from the south side of Chicago could be recruited to join a program that required a long-term commitment and group participation and, second, to design a program that meets the needs of these young men. …

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