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From The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Introducing the Optimal Health Model

Office of Population Affairs (OPA)
The mission of the Office of Population Affairs (OPA), in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, is to promote health across the reproductive lifespan through innovative, evidence-based adolescent health and family planning programs, services, strategic partnerships, evaluation, and research. A fundamental aspect of achieving this mission involves the integration of the concept of optimal health into OPA projects and initiatives.

The Optimal Health Model
The Optimal Health Model prioritizes prevention through policies following these steps:

  1. Identify the health concern
  2. Identify the risk factors that influence that health concern
  3. Respond with an intervention that promotes the best possible health outcome for the population
  4. Encourage individuals to make appropriate changes that will lead them towards a position of increasingly lower risk

Optimal Sexual Health
The most reliable way to avoid sexual risk is to delay the onset of sexual activity and to be in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner. The population approach to sexual health should be a risk avoidance message. Optimal sexual health messages should be family-and community-centered, age appropriate, and culturally informed. The messages should be provided in a context that increases opportunities for individuals to thrive and empowers them to avoid sexual risk.  While optimal physical health remains a primary focus, it is important for all public health models to promote the balance of physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and intellectual health. 

Public health advocates should encourage the development of the skills necessary to make healthy choices and avoid risky behaviors, or if currently engaged in those behaviors, to change the behaviors and avoid them in the future.  These healthy choices help move them towards optimal health across the reproductive lifespan. In general, and for any health topic, the aspirational aim would be to catalyze movement as much as possible from high risk to low risk to no risk, while providing reinforcement to those at no
risk to maintain that status.

For the full content, visit the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services

Save the Date!
Ascend iSucceed Summit
June 25-26, 2020 
(formerly Youth Leadership Summit and Day on the Hill)

Join us in Washington, D.C. June 25-26, 2020 for our annual iSucceed Summit (formerly Youth Leadership Summit and Day on the Hill. New name, same event!)

What: Day one will offer a leadership and SRA education training and day two will allow you the opportunity to meet with your Members of Congress!

Who: Bring SRA supporters, educators, and youth leaders to join others from across the nation in voicing support for Sexual Risk Avoidance education!
SRAS Training
Sexual Risk Avoidance Specialist (SRAS) certified educators distinguish themselves in their field, increase their credibility, and demonstrate a professional commitment to enhancing their teaching expertise. 

For more information on Ascend’s SRAS certification program, click here
SRAS Training Dates and Locations

SRAS Certification Training
Columbus, Ohio

February 12-13, 2020 

SRAS Certification Training
Minot, North Dakota

March 10-11, 2020

More dates and locations to be added.

Has Your SRAS Credential Expired?

Stay current by completing our new online SRAS Recertification program.

If you were SRAS certified in 2018 or renewed your certification in 2018, your SRA credential expires this year!   

Not sure when your certification expires? Contact us and we'll be happy to check for you!
State News
Kentucky: House bill would require sex education in all grades, starting in kindergarten

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky lawmakers are considering making sex education courses a requirement for all grades in public school, including kindergartners. 

House Bill 296, sponsored by Louisville Democrat Lisa Willner, was introduced on Jan. 23 as part of the 2020 Regular Session. It would require schools to establish minimum requirements for comprehensive sex education classes, including curriculum and instructional materials "designed to improve students' physical, mental, emotional, social, and behavioral well-being."

The bill would also prevent schools from restricting the ability of an instructor to answer a question related to comprehensive sex education and require schools to make the sex education curriculum available upon a parent or guardian's request.

Massachusetts: Senate approves comprehensive sex education bill

The Senate voted Thursday to require comprehensive sex education curriculum in schools that teach the topic, easily advancing a bill that has proved controversial in the past.

Under the bill, which passed 33-2, schools offering sex education would be required to provide medically accurate and age-appropriate information, including LGBTQ-inclusive material such as sexual orientations, gender identities, and gender expressions, and discussion of consent, while allowing parents to opt their children out.

The legislation now goes to the House, where it has died without a vote each of the past two sessions following Senate approval. House Speaker Robert DeLeo has not committed to taking it up. In May he said the topic was "on our radar to take a look at," noting that the language of the bill has evolved.

Utah: Governor halts condom campaign over 'sexual innuendo' of slogans
Utah health officials were getting busy with an HIV-prevention effort when Gov. Gary Herbert halted the distribution of 100,000 condoms due to racy messaging.

The Utah Department of Health earlier this month started distributing the condoms with suggestive slogans and teenage humor to promote safe sex.

One condom cover, for example, spelled out "SL UT" by using two-letter abbreviations for the state of Utah and its capital, Salt Lake City. Another had a picture of a mountain and the slogan "Enjoy Your Mountin'." Still another showed an image of a bed with the slogan, "This is the place."

Herbert's office said in a statement, "The governor understands the importance of the Utah Department of Health conducting a campaign to educate Utahns about HIV prevention.”

“He does not, however, approve the use of sexual innuendo as part of a taxpayer-funded campaign, and our office has asked the department to rework the campaign’s branding,” the statement said.
California: Senate committee votes down sex ed bill aimed at “giving more control to parents”
Demonstrators rallied outside the state capitol in Sacramento Wednesday morning in support of Senate Bill 673, before the state senate's education committee voted down the measure.

Backers say the bill would have allowed parents to thoroughly review what their children are being taught about sex education in the state's public elementary schools.

The legislation sponsored by Senator Mike Morrell, a Republican from Rancho Cucamonga, would also have required parents of students grades K through 6 to sign permission slips before children participate in sex ed classes.

The vote to kill the measure in the senate education committee was along party lines 5 to 2.
Colorado: Lawmakers reintroduce ‘Parent’s Bill of Rights’
DENVER, Colo. (KRDO) -- For the third time in five years, Colorado state legislators have introduced a bill to allow parents more control over their child's education and health, including when their beliefs conflict with state laws.

Most recently introduced in 2016, the 'Parent's Bill of Rights' would allow parents greater control over their child's education, health and religious upbringing. That bill died in the house from a narrow vote along party lines, but has now been reintroduced in 2020.

The 2020 Parent's Bill of Rights HB 20-1144, introduced by Republican state Rep. Rod Pelton, states that any "governmental entity or institution shall not infringe upon the fundamental right of a parent to direct the upbringing, education, and health care of his or her minor child without demonstrating that the compelling government interest [...] cannot be accomplished in a less restrictive manner."
Minnesota: Communities concerned about sex ed in classroom
A group of local parents is concerned about a bill that would mandate comprehensive sex education in the classroom as early as kindergarten.

House representative Peggy Bennett believes sex education is important but doesn't like the curriculum this bill could allow. Bennett calls books now in use in other states too graphic. She also thinks sex education shouldn't start too early. 

"This belongs in the hands of local school board members teachers, and parents who know their children best,” Bennett said. “My biggest message in this is that I think parents should be empowered at the local level to direct schools on what kind of education they want for their children. "
Florida: Parents angered, surprised over new book on high school reading list
A book on the high school reading list in the Palm Beach County School system has angered and surprised some parents. Some families are demanding the book called "Little and Lion" should be banned by the school system for inappropriate content.

Nicholas and Melissa Hasapoglou were shocked when they looked at the book their 15-year-old daughter was assigned to read. They say the book "Little and Lion" is filled with obscenities, sexually explicit scenes and promotes condoms, promiscuity, drinking, bisexuality and lack of respect for the Bible.

“It's absolutely ridiculous. There’s foul language, the F word is in almost every page," Hasapoglou said.

The school told Nicholas his 10th grader can opt-out of reading the book, but he says that’s not enough. He wants it banned. Nicholas says he and his wife plan to file a formal complaint about "Little and Lion" with the School Materials Review Committee which could then go all the way to the Palm Beach County School Board.

Hiding in plain sight: Inside the online world of suicidal teens

Two days before Thanksgiving, Alejandra Agredo of Miami wrote on her Twitter account, “i could use a hug right now.” Hours later, the 17-year-old stepped in front of a train.

In April of 2018, 19-year-old Anthony Wolkin-Grudin of Tamarac posted on Facebook, “Should i cling to life? Or should i just kill myself? It’s getting harder and harder to mask my pain. I can’t tell if i wanna live or if i wanna die.” Months later, he took his life in a park.

On the Saturday before the new year, Bryce Gowdy of Deerfield Beach posted on Twitter: “To be or not to be.” Days later, the 17-year-old killed himself.

“Parents are allowing kids to go in their room, close the door and live a whole other life in cyberspace,” said Daniel Bober, a Hollywood adolescent psychiatrist and chief of psychiatry at Memorial Healthcare System. “Not every place online they turn to encourages them to get better.”

On Instagram, there now are more than 2 million posts with the hashtag #kms (kill myself), 554,000 with #hatemyself and 631,663 with #lifesucks. Teens say they also use less obvious hashtags or coded language text to talk about their demons and sense of worthlessness in places parents wouldn’t think to look — such as #secretsociety123, which has a dozen variations and more than 500,000 posts. They also use code names for mental health disorders, such as Annie for anxiety and Sue for suicidal.

Once caught up in the social vortex, teens wallow in self-hate, writing about how parents don’t understand them and why they want to die. Beyond the usual teenage self-pity, they also share gruesome videos of self-inflicted cuts, images of beloved cartoon characters in suicidal acts, and memes with grim messages such as “do it.”
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