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The aim of The Successful Teens: Relationships, Identity and Values Education (STRIVE) Initiative, led by Co-PIs Dr. Aline Gubrium and Dr. Elizabeth Salerno Valdez, is to conduct formative research using participatory research methods to examine how structural violence, like racism, and other systems of oppression contributes to inequitable adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) outcomes for youth. STRIVE is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH) and is based at the University of Massachusetts Amherst School of Public Health and Health Sciences. The research team works in partnership with two important communities across Massachusetts: Springfield, MA Metropolitan area and Lynn, MA on Boston’s North Shore. Methods and activities of the study include engaging stakeholders in Community Advisory Boards, conducting Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) through Photovoice and Digital Storytelling, assess ASRH frameworks used now by youth serving organizations, identify the role of evidence-based curricula, complete an environmental scan of existing literature, news, media, & stakeholder resources, and to triangulate the above data to inform current and future efforts of the MDPH to improve outcomes and reduce inequities in sexual and reproductive health among adolescent youth. Emphasis on the importance of community and youth collaboration is paramount to our study.  

SAMPLE PHOTOGRAPHY (Click to see excerpt quotes from collaborative analysis)


Currently in Massachusetts, a variety of Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities, including communities in Springfield and Lynn, experience adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) inequities. Although Springfield and Lynn are diverse cities, with over half of its population being Latine and Black, social inequity is abundant. We found that social inequality is linked to disparate adolescent sexual and reproductive health (ASRH) outcomes among Springfield and Lynn youth. Springfield’s teen birth rate is 25 per 1,000, which is three times that of the state. Latinx and Black teens experience the highest rates of teen births in the community. Sexually transmitted infections are also high in Springfield. While these statistics are important to consider and address, it is perhaps even more important that public health researchers and practitioners move beyond a potentially punitive and often stigmatizing focus on individual behaviors to examine how structural racism perpetuates ASRH inequities. Lynn’s teen birth rate is 32.3 per 1,000, which is three times more than the state’s. Sexually transmitted infections have also been high in this community. A large number of teens in both communities live below the poverty line and experience food insecurity, housing insecurity, homelessness, and inequitable access to healthcare and education. Young people are at high risk of being involved in juvenile, foster, and carceral systems. These young people are often heavily surveilled through a more racist criminal justice system. It is apparent that individuals facing more structural inequities are also experiencing health inequities.

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