The Palm Beach County Health Department (PBCHD) serves a population of nearly 1.3 million residents and 4.4 million annual visitors. Palm Beach County (PBC), Florida, is one of the largest counties in the United States with a population of 1,299,341. According to the 2007 PBC Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, 47.8 percent of PBC students indicated they have had sexual intercourse, of which 32.2 percent were under the age of 15.
Year One (2008–2009)
During the first year of its demonstration site project, the Palm Beach County Health Department (PBCHD) collaborated with the School District of Palm Beach County (SDPBC) to develop a collaborative action plan focused on enhancing HIV/STI prevention services to high-risk African American youth in Western Palm Beach County (WPBC). As part of the action plan, PBCHD intended to develop a Youth Advisory Board as a method to gather feedback from youth to enhance their collaboration in implementing HIV/STI prevention activities. PBCHD developed the Youth Advisory Board by convening focus groups composed of youth from three WPBC schools to inform the development of a comprehensive strategy for identifying, recruiting, and training youth advisory board members; to develop organizational skills among individual advisory board members; and to develop mechanisms to identify and target peer social behaviors for prevention interventions. Once the focus groups were complete, PBCHD and SDPBC developed a structure for the youth advisory board, recruited members, and hosted an advisory board meeting to inform their planning for the subsequent year’s action plan.
Lessons Learned for Other Local Health Departments (LHDs):
- Keeping youth involved in a succession of interventions over a period of a year provides a greater opportunity for healthier behaviors to be retained and become ingrained.
- A key to the success of this endeavor, for both the health departments and the school districts, is for staff to establish rapport with youth.
- Staff will need training in HIV/AIDS, STD and unintended pregnancy, but also in risk assessment activities, substance abuse, domestic violence, and motivational interviewing. Staff will be presented with a variety of issues from youth that need immediate attention and referral.
- Youth engagement projects can only be successful in an environment that is open, trusting, and empowers youth to implement their own ideas.
Year Two (2009–2010)
During the second year, Palm Beach County’s collaborative action plan focused on the following three goals: 1) continue to mutually plan, share staff and funding resources, and evaluate Youth Advisory Board (YAB) activities, 2) establish a YAB in Western Palm Beach County, and 3) improve the health of youth in Western Palm Beach County through the YAB activities.
- The YAB reviewed and revised scenarios from the Palm Beach County Human Growth and Development curriculum, and submitted them to PBC’s Secondary Education Curriculum Department.
- The YAB successfully gained and implemented skills in mobilizing into action. YAB members have learned how to identify a community need, plan an event to address that need, solicit support from community leaders to participate in the event, bring in peers to participate, and stay focused on their responsibilities during the event.
Lessons Learned for Other LHDs:
- On Developing a Collaborative
- It is important to get to know each other and learn what common goals your organizations (LHDs and local education agencies [LEAs]) share. Once you have developed a mutual respect and trust for each other, you can identify community resources and needs, and begin to create your plan to work together.
- A strong partnership between an LHD and LEA requires scheduled meetings, feedback shared, owning the issues together, finding solutions and being willing to work for the team, not the individual or a specific agency.
- On Working with Youth Advisory Boards
- Creating a partnership between youth with varying levels of risk provides an opportunity for youth to share and to empower each other to make healthy decisions, respect the diversity of others, and to improve their community. It also builds healthy relationships with trusted adults.
- It is important to involve the parents, families, and/or guardians of youth engaged in a youth board. PBC hopes that by involving families and providing them with a better understanding of the program, they will have more support from parents/guardians in the future.
- Youth Advisory Board Lesson Learned
- Feedback between youth and partnerships with adults works in both directions.
- As the YAB members build confidence, they take more ownership of the YAB and the YAB’s projects.
Year Three (2010–2011)
During the third year, Palm Beach County's collaborative action plan focused on the following three goals: 1) maintain the DASH 4C's Collaborative Chart "fully-linked and integrated" level of joint effort to address adolescent HIV/STI and unintended pregnant in Western Palm Beach County (WPBC), 2) promote youth knowledge of HIV/STI and unintended pregnancy, develop leadership, and influence social change, and 3) improve the health of youth in WPBC through YAB activities.
- The YAB completed mediation training. The training exposed YAB members to the value of participation in community efforts and made evident the power of working together toward a common goal. Immediate benefits to the youth were also seen, as it provided them with skills to better navigate through the "social jungle" of middle school.
- The YAB successfully organized and held the Second Annual Youth Symposium, a day long prevention program consisting of a number of workshops that covered topics such as sexual health, gang violence, domestic violence, youth living with HIV, and drug addiction. The workshops were led by adolescents and community members, which was a point of pride for the YAB. It was very meaningful to the youth to have presenters that could tell their story of surviving youth and becoming productive citizens. These community members serve as role models to the youth.
Lessons Learned for Other LHDs:
- It is imperative that LHDs and LEAs become closely involved with each other, since each agency can enhance the activities of the other. The key to developing a close relationship is finding the individual(s) you can work with and continually working to strengthen the relationship.
- It would be beneficial to have two prevention staff working with youth, as opposed to one. Two staff would allow for better support of the energy and ideas coming from the youth and the community.
- It is important to limit the number of activities that the YAB plans to implement in order to allow for adequate time for them to follow through on activities that have been selected for implementation and for the youth to learn the skills they need to be successful in their efforts.
- Parents should be involved during the beginning of the development of the YAB. Parental engagement would likely lead to better support from families for YAB activities. For example, it would be beneficial to host a meeting for the parents to discuss what was planned for the YAB and what the parents would like to see come from it.
To review PBC’s complete collaborative action plan, click here.
Materials and Tools Developed
Adolescent Peer Pressure Scenarios Exercise Template
Youth Advisory Board 2nd Annual Symposium Program Guide