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What kind of health care do young people want? That’s what even our most experienced providers wanted to find out in order to ensure our services are always youth-friendly, comprehensive, age-appropriate, and bias-free. Now in its second year, PPLM’s Accessing Culturally Competent Care for Teens and Young Adults (ACCCT) aims to bridge the gap between health care providers and their adolescent patients by deploying Youth Advocates – a cadre of specially trained high school and college students – to train providers about youth-friendly best practices.

PPLM’s eight Youth Advocates work all year to become first-rate educators. Bi-monthly training sessions cover current best practices as well as the formal skills of lesson planning, facilitation, and ways to offer feedback to adult learners. Youth Advocates also learn about the range of sexual and reproductive health services available to young people in Massachusetts, and about the laws surrounding those services.

This rigorous training pays off. The ACCCT program has already been unveiled – and enthusiastically embraced – at PPLM’s Boston and Springfield health centers. During all-staff meetings, physicians, nurses, medical technicians, receptionists, and others who regularly interact with young patients learn and practice the basics: what to ask and what not to ask, how to avoid making assumptions, how to use gender-inclusive language, how to offer the right information and follow up. A toolkit and checklist, developed by the Youth Advocates themselves, is a go-to resource for providers. In its first instance of exporting the model beyond PPLM to other venues, ACCCT offered the training in April to Dorchester House, a multi-service community health center. This program serves as an example of one of PPLM’s greatest strengths: consistent, caring focus on each patient’s experience.

The commitment to patient experience doesn’t end with the ACCCT program. As part of a new national Planned Parenthood initiative, a Health Center Advocacy Program (HCAP) has been launched in Massachusetts, giving patients personalized opportunities to support PPLM’s mission. “Advocacy Stations” in all our health centers are stocked with information about ways to get involved, and, in Boston, highly trained volunteers engage in one-on-one conversations with interested patients. The advocacy options are varied, ranging from signing a petition and joining a mailing list to sharing one’s personal story of how PPLM made a difference. Patient confidentiality is carefully preserved.

Both ACCCT and HCAP join the roster of Planned Parenthood programs that demonstrate how innovation, creativity, and “thinking outside the box” empower people to take control of their own sexual and reproductive health. Read on to find out about other PPLM initiatives that are making a difference in Massachusetts, and beyond.