Texting for Health: SafeTeens Answers! “Upgrades” Health Education with New Technology

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Pennsylvania nonprofit brings reproductive health education into the digital age with a teen health textline.

Introducing SafeTeens Answers!, Pennsylvania's first teen health textline.

With SafeTeens Answers!, we’re introducing reproductive health education to new, innovative technology

Maternal and Family Health Services (MFHS) announces the launch of SafeTeens Answers!, Pennsylvania’s first teen health textline, at Temple University-Harrisburg’s third annual Adolescent Sexual Health Conference. The service allows Pennsylvania teens to ask questions of trained reproductive health educators and receive timely responses, all over text message, all for free.

“Maternal and Family Health Services has long been a leader in reproductive health,” says Bette Cox Saxton, the Wilkes-Barre-based organization’s President and CEO. “ And with SafeTeens Answers!, we’re introducing reproductive health education to new, innovative technology.”

To ask a question, users first text the keyword “SAFE” to 57890, the SafeTeens Answers! five-digit short-code. Within seconds, users receive a welcome message from SafeTeens Answers! and may begin texting questions. The program’s health educators are trained on a wide array of reproductive health topics, including anatomy, relationships, contraception and STDs.

“Teens often get reproductive health information from unreliable sources, such as Reddit or Yahoo! Answers” says MFHS Adolescent Outreach Coordinator Nick Sufrinko, who manages SafeTeens Answers! “The idea here,” Sufrinko says, “is to shift teens away from those unreliable health information-seeking practices to more reliable, safer information-seeking practices.”

SafeTeens Answers! is built on the success of MFHS’s thirteen-year-old teen health website, SafeTeens.org.

“Thanks to generous funding from the Anna Lalor Burdick Program of the Lalor Foundation,” Saxton said, “we’re able to bring this valuable service to Pennsylvania teens.” She continues, “Teens, when armed with safe, reliable information, are best equipped to make informed, healthy choices about their futures.”

More information on the SafeTeens Answers! Textline can be found at http://www.safeteens.org/answers.

Maternal and Family Health Services is a non-profit health and social service agency celebrating over 40 years of service to Pennsylvania women, children and families. The agency oversees a network of health and nutrition centers in 16 Pennsylvania counties, serving over 110,000 people each year through the following programs: Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Nutrition Program; Family Planning Program; Healthy Beginnings Plus Prenatal Program; the Nurse-Family Partnership Program and the HealthyWoman Cancer Screening Program. For more information, visit the MFHS websites at: http://www.mfhs.org or http://www.safeteens.org, or call 1-800-367-6347.

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Jean Holmgren
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