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Developing Community Partnerships to Support Pregnant and Parenting Adolescents

June 15, 2023

Adolescents who become pregnant, for multiple reasons, often experience barriers to health, education, and child care access, and are often disenfranchised. In Washington DC, the rate of births to adolescents is twice the national rate.

A team of pediatricians in Washington DC developed a city-wide interdisciplinary network, the District of Columbia Network for Expectant and Parenting Teens (DC NEXT), to improve outcomes for this important group of parents. This week, Pediatrics is early releasing an Advocacy Case Study that describes these efforts. This article, by Dr. Yael Smiley and colleagues at Children’s National and the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, is entitled “Leveraging the Collective Impact Model to Advocate for Pregnant and Parenting Teens” (10.1542/peds.2023-061319).

This team recruited community partners, including community organizations, governmental agencies, schools, health center, and child care centers. Importantly, they hired a “context team” of young adult and teen parents to participate in all aspects of DC NEXT. They adopted the Collective Impact Model, which is used for community-side collaboration and problem-solving, to frame and guide their activities through 5 concepts:

  • Creation of a common agenda: DC NEXT defined a problem statement, guiding principles, vision, mission, and outcome measures through an iterative process involving the context team and community partners.
  • Mutually reinforcing activities that align with the common agenda: Activities included sharing of resources among those who interact with teen parents and city-wide trainings for network partners and others on core topics that will improve teen-centered care, such as trauma-informed care, adolescent sex education, youth mental health first aid, and health equity.
  • Shared measurement system: DC NEXT developed a process to collect data citywide on outcome measures.
  • Continuous communication: DC NEXT used their website, quarterly newsletters, and social media to highlight program initiatives and provide links to resources.
  • Backbone support: DC NEXT was administratively housed at a local nonprofit advocacy organization that managed budgets, communication, and hiring.

I was impressed when I read this Advocacy Case Study, particularly by the manner in which DC NEXT broke down silos and shared information to benefit the community. One example is the sharing of information about the formula shortage to key policy makers who could authorize emergency funding to secure additional formula to teen parents through DC NEXT partners.

Take a look at this article. Regardless of what health challenge your community is facing, you may be able to take away lessons that you can use to problem-solve in your community.

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