New York City will use emojis to promote confidential reproductive and sexual health care to youth

A new public awareness campaign designed to promote the health care services that are most utilized by New Yorkers aged 12 to 21 at neighborhood centers in the city’s public health care system will emphasize sexual and reproductive health.

The campaign features a new youth health services website and an extensive social media component utilizing provocative emojis on Facebook, Instagram and other platforms expected to reach the social news feeds of up to 2.4 million New York City adolescents in the next three months.

“Young people have particular health care requirements and NYC Health + Hospitals offers the services young people need in a confidential and non-judgmental environment,” said Dr. Ram Raju, president and CEO of NYC Health + Hospitals. “Whether it’s birth control, pregnancy testing, emergency contraception or depression screening, the public health system has affordable services in local community health centers, where we speak your language, understand your culture and respect your privacy.

“In 2015 alone, NYC Health + Hospitals saw 152,000 adolescent patients. NYC Health + Hospitals community health centers are also uniquely situated in neighborhoods that experience disparities in care, where adolescent pregnancy rates and STD rates are higher, and where access to care is difficult,” said Raju. “No other health system in the city is seeking to address those disparities and fill those gaps like the public health care system.”

In 2015 at NYC Health + Hospitals, about 15,000 adolescents were diagnosed with depression, more than 38,000 were tested for STDs, 30,000 were tested for pregnancy and some 2,400 gave birth.

“Under New York State law, minors have the right to consent to certain kinds of health care on their own,” said Dr. Warren Seigel, chairperson of pediatrics and director of adolescent medicine at NYC Health + Hospitals/Coney Island. “This care includes pregnancy tests, STD tests and treatment, mental health care, and post sexual assault care. Many teens feel that they cannot turn to the adults in their lives for help with these services and it’s important that teens know that they can come to us and we will help them.”

In addition to the social media campaign and the new website, the YouthHealth campaign includes posters, brochures, wallet-size cards with the website address, and ad panels that will be posted in city hospitals. Community-based organizations near NYC Health + Hospitals health centers are partnering with the system to distribute the materials. Google search ads will also direct people searching for services to the website.

Social media is a major part of the outreach effort, with an innovative campaign strategically targeting adolescents 13 to 21 throughout the city. Facebook and Instagram will be targeted with ads featuring provocative emoji icons that are widely used in the age group, informing young people about the availability of reproductive health and other services available at NYC Health + Hospitals YouthHealth centers. The innovative campaign will use #NYCYouthHealth, to help boost engagement among youth.

In addition to promoting public health, the goal of the campaign is to increase use of youth health services at NYC Health + Hospitals by 25 percent by the year 2020. Dr. Raju had previously set a goal in his “Vision 2020” plan for NYC Health + Hospitals to increase its patient base by two-thirds by the year 2020 in order to bring financial stability to the system.

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