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Student and Family Support (SFS)

Promoting Adolescent Health Through School-Based HIV/STD Prevention

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) cooperatively support eleven school districts to create the conditions for improved adolescent health by providing funding and resources designed to HIV priority prevention districts 'Working to Improve Sexual Health Environments in Schools' (WISHES). Training, technical assistance and funding from the CDC and its other funded partners amplify the Department's efforts to assist WISHES districts to plan, implement, and evaluate the impact of four CDC-approved evidence-based approaches (the Approaches) to Reduce Adolescent Sexual Risk Behaviors, HIV/STDs, and Teen Pregnancy. These include:

  1. Exemplary Sexual Health Education (ESHE)
  2. Sexual Health Services (SHS)
  3. Safe and Supportive Learning Environments (SSE), and
  4. Related policies and procedures supporting WISHES (Policy).

WISHES districts receive access to locally prioritized training and technical assistance, professional development, policy education and related resources from Department staff in consultation with other national CDC-funded partners including Advocates for Youth (ESHE), the National Coalition of STD Directors (SHS) and the American Psychological Association's Safe Schools Program (SSE). These resources support WISHES district team leaders (which include health and wellness coordinators, teachers, school health nurse leaders, and administrators) to develop locally and culturally appropriate evidence-based programming and curricula, and effective sexual health education policies at the district and school level.

Related policies that schools receive support to implement include confidentiality, condom availability, dating violence, electronic aggression and bullying prevention, gender non-discrimination, health service referral and parental notification policies, as well as others supporting HIV-infected students and staff, and LGBTQ students at disproportionate risk.

The WISHES program is guided by the Department's WISHES Statewide Health Advisory Council (WISHES SHAC), which is made up of key stakeholders representing families, schools and community partners in health promotion and disease prevention efforts. The AAP advises the Department on the implementation of best practices for locally-appropriate health education efforts on a wide range of HIV- and sexuality-related topics. The Department seeks WISHES SHAC representation from constituents who have expertise on topics including: healthy sexual development, HIV/AIDS, sexual minority youth, teen pregnancy, minority youth, adolescent reproductive health issues, youth at disproportionate risk, sexuality education in school settings, outreach, program planning, state and local government programs, and community organizations.

The panel's work also includes program development, community communication, and materials review. The WISHES SHAC periodically reviews sexuality education curricula against 14 criteria they developed for school based programs. The criteria include accuracy of information, developmental appropriateness, inclusion of racial, ethnic and cultural communities, and alignment with the Massachusetts Comprehensive Health Curriculum Framework , National Health Education Standards, and National Sexuality Education Standards.

Please note that at no time should this list be considered exhaustive, as other evidence-based programs and practices may exist that have not yet been reviewed or posted here. Each district must determine what curriculum and strategies are most appropriate for each school and grade level, taking into account developmental stages, local needs and other factors. Following is a list of resources and programs that may also be helpful to WISHES districts and others.

For more information, please contact:
Lenore Tsikitas, MPH
HIV/AIDS Health Program Specialist

Related Department Programs and Guidance:

Related CDC Resources:

Resources for Educators and WISHES District Team Leaders

Resources for Evaluators

Resources for Parents

Related Public Health Programs:

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) provides oversight of health services across several school-based settings:

Last Updated: August 10, 2017

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