Adolescents Benefit from Dual Protection Messaging
Toolkits promote youth messaging
Young people need multiple and diverse messaging about dual method use of contraception, according to a recent study.1
As researchers spent a decade working on an over-the-counter (OTC) hormonal contraceptive pill, they also worked to address all the different aspects of this reality — including messaging for youths, says Tracey A. Wilkinson, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine.
“[We] applied for this grant because we have passions for young people, and we wondered how we were going to talk about [OTC contraception] and STI protection,” Wilkinson explains. “We wondered what messages resonate for that and what is important to say.”
Research was needed to ask young people how their physicians can talk about it. “We designed a human-centered design method to determine how to talk about this and what would resonate,” Wilkinson explains. “We came up with toolkits that had lots of activities that solicited information that human-centered design methods took. We came up with messaging that’s in the paper.”
Investigators recruited adolescents and young adult people, ages 14 to 21 years, from Georgia and Indiana. They sent participants a workbook about safe sex and asked them to complete and return it for a $40 gift card.
“We couldn’t figure out how to get all the young people in one room at a time,” Wilkinson says. “We got their consent and baseline information, and then we’d send the toolkit to them, and they’d mail it back to us.”
The nine-page workbook included questions about safer sex. Questions were centered on the idea that someone could receive OTC birth control at a pharmacy. The questions included:
- “What do you think a safe sex champion would do?”
- “What does the word ‘protection’ make you think of when it comes to sex?”
- “The best place to get advice about birth control is ...”
- “What would make learning about birth control easier for you?”
Participants also were asked to draw pictures of what dual protection means to them and to consider some other things that go together, such as apple pie and ice cream.
Another section asked the participants how they felt about seeing birth control pills on a shelf. The last page asked how someone should respond when their partner is resisting dual protection and safer sex.
Wilkinson and colleagues found that young stakeholders thought social media and trusted websites were good ways to communicate safe sex and dual protection messages. They also suggested that location-based alerts, such as a pharmacy that sold both condoms and hormonal contraception, could be helpful.
The idea behind dual protection messaging is that there is more than one way to access contraception and prevent pregnancy. People who are sexually active also need to consider STI prevention — so even if they are taking hormonal contraceptives, they still use condoms.
“If you’re at the pharmacy to pick up birth control, pick up a pack of condoms at the same time,” Wilkinson says. “We need to embrace over-the-counter birth control and talk about it and use it as a way to augment patient care.”
An OTC birth control pill would be a game-changer, but it will not work for everyone. Providers need to ensure patients know they can ask providers more about their contraceptive choices and how to protect themselves from STIs.
“I think it’s important to say that we need to increase contraceptive access for everybody,” Wilkinson says.
- Wilkinson TA, Jenkins K, Hawryluk BA, et al. Dual protection messaging for adolescent and young adults in the setting of over-the-counter hormonal contraception: A human-centered design approach. J Pediatr Adolesc Gynecol 2022;35:669-675.
Young people need multiple and diverse messaging about dual method use of contraception, according to a recent study. As researchers spent a decade working on an over-the-counter hormonal contraceptive pill, they also worked to address all the different aspects of this reality — including messaging for youths
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