ECISD, Life Center, Texas Tech recognized for health education efforts

The partnership between Ector County Independent School District, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and The Life Center has earned them a Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy’s 2018 Community Partner Award.

Although word of the award has been out for a while, the three agencies recently made a formal announcement during a news conference in the ECISD board room.

For 2018, teen births were at 76 per 1,000 for girls age 15-19, figures from County Health Rankings say. The high point was 2012 when teen births were at 99 per 1,000.

Since then, the rates have declined slowly from 98 per 1,000 in 2013, to 96 per 1,000 in 2014 and 2015. The figure was 93 per 1,000 in 2016 and 89 per 1,000 in 2017.

Dr. Moss Hampton, who is on the executive board of the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Texas Tech health sciences, said he is proud of the collaboration that exists in Ector County.

The Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy was established in 2009 and is a nonpartisan, nonprofit education and advocacy organization dedicated to reducing the rate of unintended teen pregnancy in Texas.

Hampton said Tuesday the organization has worked to create constructive dialogue about teen pregnancy, adolescent sexual health and effective preventive strategies. The annual community partner award celebrates fellow organizations that have committed to outstanding work in the prevention of teen pregnancy, Hampton said.

“I think it’s especially rewarding for the campaign to recognize what we’ve done in Ector County,” Hampton said. “We really have a very unique collaborative with The Life Center, with Ector County Independent School District and with Texas Tech in our presentation of the sexual health curriculum that is in ECISD. It was amazing to me to hear that we presented our educational programs to 12,000 ECISD students. I think that just shows how large our scope has become and how many lives we really try to reach in our grades five through 10.”

The basis of the curriculum is Big Decisions started by Dr. Jan Realini in San Antonio.

Hampton said it is an effective curriculum and it is fulfilling to see that the teen pregnancy rates in Ector County have dropped.

“I think that’s something that we can be very proud of. Do we have work to do? Absolutely because teen pregnancy is decreasing across the state and across the nation,” Hampton said.

In Texas, the rate is 54 per 1,000 and nationally, he said it is about 24 per 1,000.

“… We can’t stop doing what we’re doing, but we are making progress and I think this is great data to share with our community, with the school district, and like I say, (it’s) just a very proud moment for me to be able to bring this recognition to The Life Center, Ector County Independent School District and Texas Tech,” Hampton said.

Life Center Executive Director Judy Rouse said the interaction between Texas Tech and her organization began in 2010.

Obstetrician-gynecologist Dr. Elisa Brown had an idea to integrate some medical components into what The Life Center offers, Rouse said.

She said what’s effective is that Big Decisions involves a holistic approach taking in their physical, intellectual, emotional, social and spiritual aspects.

“We talk about spiritual from the context of we have a soul, we all make decisions right and wrong. When you begin to incorporate that whole person in an interactive kind of venue, all of a sudden the kids’ eyes light up. You care! I value myself, so we come from a perspective of respect yourself, your body and others and that is what the kids begin to really grab hold of — their value,” Rouse said.

“They listen a little bit because they feel affirmed and now they can listen to what we say together about protecting this wonderful person that you are. No matter what their demographic, no matter what their family situation is they can own the fact that I am a valuable person; I don’t have to be bullied; I don’t have to be talked to this way. I have a choice to make good choices for myself. That’s really, I think, the heart of our message,” Rouse added.

Brown said the curriculum tries to teach students the facts and use the scientific names of body parts.

“We want them to understand the science of it, so there are no more myths,” Brown said.

She added that classes also are provided for parents. It is explained to parents that the research shows that talking with your children about the reality of their sexual health does not invite them to be active.

“It actually kind of invites them not to,” Brown said.

Lisa Platner, director of the community health education office at Texas Tech health sciences, said they use the five pillars of community, clinical linkages, the youth themselves, parents and education.

“We have also gone as far as to create a coalition that we want to be for the whole Permian Basin, not just Ector County. … The coalition works on the different pillars and how we react to the community, as well. That is something that is open to community. You don’t have to be from the Life Center, Texas Tech or ECISD. It’s for all of the community,” Platner said.

ECISD PE and Health Coordinator Michael Neiman, Student Health Advisory Council liaison to the school board, said three years ago SHAC asked trustees for permission to involve community partners in the program.

“We started a subcommittee in our SHAC. Dr. (Dawn) Weaks has been the chairman the last two years. She’s done a great job of getting agencies, clubs and groups in town to actually take the same curriculum we’re using and put it into their programs,” Neiman said.

Weaks is co-pastor of Connection Christian Church of Odessa.

In this way, students are hearing the same information so kids are hearing the same information at church and other agencies they go to, he said.

One of the recommendations from SHAC to the board this year will be to offer a refresher course to juniors and seniors before they head out into the world.