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UI will not replace Avoid the Stork campaign

BY JENNY EARL | DECEMBER 14, 2011 7:20 AM

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There wasn't a stork in sight on campus this year.

The University of Iowa College of Public Health's Avoid the Stork campaign grant — given to the University by the Iowa Initiative Research Program — came to an end last spring, and officials have no plans for a safe-sex marketing campaign to take its place.

"We don't have any plans," said Trisha Schiltz, the health educator for Student Health/Health Iowa. "We're always out there for outreach, but we don't have anything as large scale because we don't have that kind of funding."

The Avoid the Stork campaign, part of the Iowa Initiative Research Program, was designed to educate women ages 18 to 30 about contraception and about improving behavior regarding sexual health.

The UI's Avoid the Stork campaign launched in 2009.

The UI National College Health Assessment Summary shows 17.7 percent of sexually active UI students reported using the "morning after pill" and 1 percent reported experiencing an unintentional pregnancy or getting someone pregnant in the last 12 months.

Some say campaigns such as Avoid the Stork are a key in decreasing the amount of unplanned pregnancies.

"Because a woman saw a poster or a billboard, is that going to prevent a pregnancy? Absolutely not," said Barbara Huberman, the director of education for Advocates for Youth, an organization founded in 1980 as the Center for Population Options. "But would that make her or her partner stop and think about their relationship and think about using better methods? That is possible."

Huberman said two-thirds of teen pregnancies occur to 18- or 19-year-olds.

"That means if you have 100 teen pregnancies in your city, about 66 of them are going to occur to 18- or 19-year-olds, and in general, those women aren't in high school anymore," she said. "Given that kind of data, we need campaigns that focus on a college-age population."

Even though the campaign won't be renewed, Student Health behavior health consultant Stephanie Beecher said it was a good step toward improving sexual-health awareness at the UI.

"One thing the Stork did a great job of is creating that environment where it's normal to talk about these things — so if anything, that's been great," she said.

While the Stork went around campus distributing condoms, Student Health officials will now focus on efforts to educate students and test for STDs.

Student Health's first successful initiative took place on World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, when a group of Student Health officials used remote testing to test 28 students for HIV.

Beecher said 38 percent of UI students have been tested for STDs within the past year, and Student Health hopes to raise that number.

Deb Madison-Levi, director of operations and communications for Iowa Initiative, said the results regarding the success of the 2009-10 Avoid the Stork campaign will not be available until April.

"We're winding down into the last year of our work, collecting information and data from these research programs, and then we'll be able to report more [on the success] of these programs," she said.


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