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Featured Model Teen Programs

Erie Teen Health Center
Chicago, Illinois

Erie Teen Health Center is a freestanding clinic on Chicago's ethnically diverse North Side that focuses exclusively on providing health care services to adolescents and young adults ages 12-24.The center, which was founded in 1985 by a nurse-midwife and pediatrician who recognized an adolescent's need for a health care locale that respected their privacy, is one of seven sites within the Erie Family Health Center, a federally qualified health center system. A key aspect of Erie Teen's mission is to help adolescents develop the strengths and skills that will allow them to become effective stewards of their own health. Indeed, an initial visit includes a physical exam, a medical and psychosocial history, reproductive health screening and counseling, a weight and nutrition assessment, and even risk-reduction counseling about violence, safe sex practices, and illegal substance avoidance. Erie Teen receives up to 2,200 patients a year, plus 500 babies and young children of patients. Due to the large number of pregnant girls and teen mothers, the center provides a full range of prenatal, delivery, and postnatal services as well as pediatric care, thereby serving not just adolescents but also their families.

To address the fact that many parents of the predominantly Hispanic patients speak only Spanish, all support staff at Erie Teen are bilingual. Many support staff in fact are former patients not much older than the teens accessing services who understand the anxieties and doubts that accompany a young person's initial forays into the health care system. The center's clinical team is comprised of two pediatricians, a family nurse practitioner, a pediatric nurse practitioner, a nurse-midwife, and two clinical social workers, most of who work on a part-time basis. As a result of these part-time schedules, the clinical staff typically meets with each other frequently but informally, rather than in a meeting room. Feedback studies show that 96% of patients have reported satisfaction with their treatment, with most concurrently engaging in healthy practices they learned at Erie Teen. A key factor in this success has been the clinical staff's ability to engage teens in a respectful, non-judgmental way that is sensitive to their issues and anxieties, thereby establishing trust and a sense of comfort. Furthermore, the center is firm in its commitment to confidentiality, tailoring care so as to reflect the teen's privacy and the degree to which they want family members informed of the services provided.

One of Erie Teen's premier projects has been the Centering Pregnancy Program, a group model of prenatal care wherein pregnant patients join with other girls with similar due dates to receive prenatal care, education, and therapy. This model includes discussions and consultations with experts to build trust among members and form an enduring community of young mothers. Through this process, the patients become knowledgeable about their bodies and participate actively in self-care to ensure the best health outcomes for themselves and their infants. Recently, Erie Teen has developed a presence online with pages on Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace, as well as a regularly updated teen health blog called "Beats per Minute", which provides pertinent information, stories, and events.

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