This post was written by E. Cameron Hartofelis. Cameron is an MA/MPH candidate in Communication Studies and Maternal Child Health at UNC-Chapel Hill, and will graduate in May 2013. Her work centers on the reduction of barriers to sexual and reproductive healthcare in the United States.
Ever had a question about your sexual health that couldn’t wait for a visit to the doctor? What about a question you were too embarrassed to ask a friend? Though the internet can serve as a clearinghouse of information around any subject, sometimes it’s nice to have a person respond to a pressing question.
Planned Parenthood is among a number of sexual and reproductive health providers and organizations in the past year to reach out to their patients with an electronic hand. In September of 2012 they launched their Text and Chat Hotline which includes a web and texting component. The service is specifically geared towards teens who might have less access to information or services, though they happily accommodate requests from all askers. And, this service promises not only a prompt response, but a response from a real, live certified health educator.
This is a fairly new program, but it isn’t entirely novel. Hotlines, such as Exhale, have been providing answers and support around issues of sexual and reproductive health for years. And websites such as Scarleteen offer resources, message boards, and a virtual community to answer teens’ questions about sex. Though the technology and interventions aren’t new, more work needs to be done to better understand the efficacy and impact of programs such as these in comparison to services offered in person.
So – when you next have an urgent question about sex or sexual health, will you grab your cell phone and text for answers, or are there questions better answered face-to-face?
Image source: www.plannedparenthood.org