Widen prevention focus to include young males

Want to reach adolescent males with a pregnancy prevention message? An innovative approach developed by the Washington, DC-based National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy may be the perfect fit.

The campaign has teamed up with Grant Hill, a professional basketball star with the Detroit Pistons, in developing a prevention-forward campaign. It centers on an advertisement featuring a photo of the athlete and the following message: "At 15, you should be pushing your game, not a stroller. Getting someone pregnant can detour your dreams."

The ad, developed by New York City-based ad agency Ogilvy & Mather, has been incorporated into a print and electronic postcard, as well as a 14" × 11" locker-size poster. (See resource box, p. 48, for ordering information.) Introduction of the ad was kicked off in the magazine Teen People, with an accompanying article on the campaign, says Marisa Nightingale, director of media programs. Other national magazines have expressed interest in publishing the advertisement as a public service, says Nightingale.

Copies of the print postcard are scheduled to be distributed free for two months at all Tower Records locations through "M@x Racks" displays operated by the New York City-based national postcard rack company. By placing the postcards where young men congregate, the cards — and the message — are easily accessible, says Nightingale.

"That is a really important piece to this campaign, that it not just be an ad that has to be seen in a publication," she notes. "Having these postcards out there gives us a way to get it in the hands of young people who may not be reading a lot of magazines."

Several public health and teen pregnancy agencies also are placing orders for the postcards and locker posters, confirms Nightingale. While the ad and accompanying collateral material were not specifically designed for the purpose, they would serve as an tool in May’s observance of National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.

Focusing on the future

In working with Hill, the campaign is seeking to offer a positive message to young men, Night ingale observes. "The reason we like [the advertisement] is that it focuses on the future and the possibilities that exist for teen boys. It doesn’t tell them what to do; it basically says, whatever it takes, prevent teen pregnancy.’"

The campaign, in conducting focus groups with young men, found that an effective message had to reach both abstinent and sexually active young men. "When we did some focus group work with teen boys, the younger boys felt that an abstinence message was relevant, but the older ones tuned it out," says Nightingale. "What we found was that the message needed to be both support for abstaining and support for using protection."

The campaign also worked with Hill in developing a prevention message that is featured on the athlete’s Web site, www.granthill.com. The message is headed by "Guys, teen pregnancy is your problem!" and goes on to read: "Too many guys think "responsibility" only means taking care of a baby after it’s born. That’s important, of course, but think about it this way: Really being responsible means not getting someone pregnant when you’re teen-agers."

What does your facility provide in terms of service for young males? If you are considering implementing services, invite young men in for a feedback session on what they want, says Hector Sanchez-Flores, senior research associate with the Center for Reproductive Health Policy and Research at the University of California, San Francisco. Sanchez-Flores works with several California-based male involvement programs.

During the feedback session, walk the young men through the facility so they get a sense of what is offered, he suggests. While some clinics do invite men to come into exam rooms as part of their partners’ exams, some clinics offer no access, which leaves men in the waiting room with no understanding of the clinic process.

If education is a special interest to young men, ask them if there is a preference for a male or female educator. Also, find out if your staff has an awareness of the specific issues and needs of young men in both general and reproductive health. Young men are interested in knowing more about their bodies, so be prepared to teach them, says Sanchez-Flores.

"I remember hearing a lot more when I was younger about the woman’s reproductive health system, and very little was mentioned other than the gross motor parts for men," says Sanchez-Flores. "I’ve been in group settings where both adult men and teen-age boys are being told about a woman’s reproductive health system and then their own, and the men will say, I never knew that my parts were that complex.’"

National Campaign to Prevent Teen Preg nancy, 2100 M St. N.W., Suite 300, Washing ton, DC 20037. Web: www.teenpregnancy.org. Visitors to the Web site can send the Grant Hill postcard electronically or choose from three additional messages by typing the following in their Web browser: www.teenpregnancy.org/ postcards/postcard.html. Postcards are sold in 50-item bundles for $5 per bundle, and posters are $3.50 each. A 15% shipping and handling charge is added for regular delivery orders; a 5.75% sales tax is added for DC residents. Go to the "Resources" page of the Web site to order these and other educational items.