Liveblog: It Takes A Village (+Google): High Tech Approaches to Reducing Teen Pregnancies – Young People Taking Charge of Their Sexual Health

Katherine Meerse – Hennepin County Human Services & Public Health Dept.

Hennepin county has low overall teen birth rates, but big racial/ethnic disparities which we wanted to work on – 64 births / 1000 Black or Latino teen women, 8 births / 1000 white women.

We have the Safer Sex Initiative, a clinic based initiative funded by  HHS – and once they came, they loved it, but we couldn’t get anyone to come to it!

So we designed a marketing campaign, through Anna Kruchowski of Haberman (an ad agency), a former youth advocate herself.

Campaign goals were to promote use of sexual health clinics by youth, portray audience in positive light, authentically engage them in the process.

We recruited a panel of 10 teen leaders who cared about the cause and could be very articulate about it and look past just their personal experience to those around them.  Hennepin County literally let us use these teens as our client – they made nearly all the creative decisions – and we have to give them big ups for that.

Our approach – address emotional barriers of fear & anxiety (identified by youth) by presenting an empowerment story instead.

Strategic Premise: I’m taking charge of my sexual health. …. keywords: I’m taking care of me, I’m ready to make this decision for myself, I choose to take charge, this is the right choice for me, I am strong, brave, courageous, being myself is important.

We needed to recognize that it was a difficult choice although a positive one.
We needed to recognize that teens needed to feel control over this choice.
These things were key to our story.

Media objectives were establish relationship with youth & create sense of private conversation, consider summer media usage & behavior, create quick exposure and buzz for these clinics & services. Finally, we know that many teens only have private access to the internet on their phones.

Media Mix

  • Television (Zoned Cable, Targeted over-the-air-network/programming),
  • Online (Responsive website, Geo-Targeted ad networks, banner ads, YouTube pre-roll, social media advertising & SEO for searches for health information)
  • Out of home (Transit, Mall of America posters)
  • Grassroots (events, posters/chalking, giveaways, photobooths)

It was amazing – we literally found many teens who knew many folks who had been pregnant, this had really touched them personally, and they wanted to be the models/the face for our campaign.

On our website, we have an animated button who is sarcastic and pop-culture savvy and on a serious level, it talks about why you might want to go to the clinic, and the logistics of what you might want or need to do once you are there.  We then had a clinic search guide, lots of resources about the clinic, and logistics for getting there. – check this out at  We were able to do really fantastic ad targeting for this with tracking, and to really use the technology that big companies who are using bad things also use to give POSITIVE messages about health for a change.

The results: 21,261 visits to the website, 43% from mobile devices, Visitors to Clinic Lowdown stayed 3x longer. Over 6K people clicked to a specific clinic page – and we hope call! 75,000 ads were clicked through.

Survey of youth in clinics – 34% of these youth had seen the campaign, which is FANTASTIC. 15% reported the campaign helped them decide to visit the clinic. Youth specifically said they really loved the campaign and they took better care of themselves as a result – and awesomely, we got almost no negative reactions!

Collaboration, Innovation, & Taking a Risk: United Way Strategies for Community Health

Sandra Serna-Smith United Way Worldwide & Nicole Agresano, United Way of Greater Milwaukee

Our approach: Mobilizing communities to create lasting changes in community conditions and to support services for individuals and families that improve lives of community populations. We try to identify the social determinants of these many issues as well as identifying the official issues.

Talking about youth pregnancy in Milwaukee – in early 2008 we set an aggressive, public goal to reduce births to 15-17 year olds by 46%.

Our core strategy was to think about our teen pregnancy prevention initiative as part of a larger campaign – free condoms, awareness of sexual victimization (most teen babies were fathered by adult men), public awareness campaign, being provocative while avoiding shame-based advertising, comprehensive sexuality education that included making kids aware of the specifics how complicated/expensive it is to be a parent and the realities without shaming but not being afraid of offending (which is what youth told us to do). The overwhelming message – being a teen parent is HARD!

We had to remember we are not the target audience. We vet our ads through teens for those targeted at teens, and those targeted at sexual predators are vetted through experts in those fields.  We did this AMAZING viral video campaign with young people rapping about why they wore a condom.

We’ve seen a 35% drop from 2006-2011 in pregnancy rates as a result of this campaign.

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