YTH Live conference in San Francisco: April 7-9, 2013

May 21, 2013 at 9:28 am Leave a comment

By Susannah Anderson, MPH

I’m usually a late adopter of new technologies.  I (finally) have a Facebook account that I use periodically, but I still haven’t branched out to Twitter or Instagram.  However, my research focuses on how to improve educational, health, and social outcomes for at-risk youth, an age group that adopts and masters new media and technology very quickly.  Because I’m interested in effective ways to communicate prevention messages to youth, the YTH Live conference in San Francisco was a good fit for my research interests and what I still need to learn about social media.

YTH Live, a conference on youth, technology, and sexual health (formerly called Sex::Tech), is held annually in San Francisco with the goal of bringing together researchers, community workers, and youth to share research and programming information to improve sexual health.  It is a relatively small conference compared to APHA, but I appreciated the smaller size, which allowed me to attend more panels and events.

The primary focus of YTH sessions was effective evidence-based prevention programs, rather than secondary data analysis.  It was exciting to hear about one successful program after another, and to hear about how each addressed specific community needs.  I learned about pregnancy prevention programs in Milwaukee and Hennepin County, MN, and about You Geaux Girl, a Tulane program for pregnancy prevention for older teens in New Orleans. Following the controversial subway ad campaign in New York City, this conversation was particularly timely: how a campaign can be attention-getting, while remaining supportive of young women, young people in general, and young parents.  Sessions addressed pregnancy prevention, connecting young people to welcoming healthcare providers, STI diagnosis and treatment, and marketing.

Since the conference focused heavily on social marketing and social media, many sessions discussed how to best reach young audiences.  I learned about targeting Facebook ads to reach young people (rather than just the organizers’ friends and colleagues), constructing and maintaining online communities for young men who have sex with men (MSM) in rural areas, and San Francisco’s partnership between its health department and its school system.

The relatively small size of this conference facilitated meeting people with similar research interests and in different stages of their careers.   Because its focus is youth, health, and technology, YTH worked to attract high school and undergraduate students to the conference, and I enjoyed talking to students who were interested in and excited about public health, at an age when I had barely known that the field existed.

I returned home to New Orleans enthusiastic about what I had learned at YTH.  I attended the conference to present research with Dr. Gretchen Clum on young women who are HIV-positive, but I learned a great deal more about effective communication, public health, and new technology.

Susannah Anderson is a doctoral student in the Department of Global Community Health and Behavioral Sciences. Her research interests center around adolescent health and social determinants of health.

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Local Practicum with OPH Bureau of Family Health – apply by May 13 Psychosocial Workshop in Aspects of Reproductive Health and Demography

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