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February 28, 2005

Health Education Program Launched To Meet Girls’ Needs

The Celebrate Girls website.
The Celebrate Girls website is part of a new health education program for girls.

The Health Center is reaching out to young women in a new program called Celebrate Girls.

The idea got a boost after the Women’s Health Community Advisory Council – a consulting group of women from communities surrounding the Health Center looking into women’s health needs – asked what the Health Center was doing to provide health information for young women between ages 10 and 18.

Celebrate Girls was the answer.

The model for the program is Celebrate Women, the Health Center’s free membership program aimed at improving the health of women of all ages by providing comprehensive, high quality, and accessible health care and related services. But because the target audience of the new program is preteens and teenagers, most of whom are instinctive computer and web users, organizers decided to make the focal point a website instead of the regular lectures, meetings, and events that Celebrate Women offers to their mothers and aunts.

“The program addresses the health needs of adolescent females,” says Diane Bennett, director of the Celebrate Women program. “It’s the only resource we could find in the state that has this type of information for girls.

“Girls don’t have to be embarrassed,” she adds. “They can visit the site anonymously and find out about things they need to know. It’s interactive, it’s interesting, and designed with adolescents in mind, and the information comes from Health Center faculty and experts.”

Organizers held focus groups for a half-dozen 11- to 13-year-olds, along with their mothers, and asked the girls’ opinions. They found out that the girls use the computer mostly for chat and homework, but would look for health information if they knew where to go.

Celebrate Girls’ website went public on Feb. 17.

The easy-to-use site is broken down into units labeled mind, body, and spirit. There’s an online survey the girls can take, a meditation video, and a question of the month that is submitted by users.

The site features easy navigation, bold colors, contemporary design, resources, and references.

“The girls’ comments and suggestions were helpful and thought-provoking,” says Sheryl Rosen, the Health Center’s web expert, who posted the site.

“They shared with us their point of view, what they wanted to see, and what’s interesting to them,” Rosen adds. “They want it flashy, hip, and interactive. We tried to give them what they wanted.”

Celebrate Girls isn’t just an online presence, however. Quarterly programs will be part of a series called, “Just Us Girls: A Program for Girls and the Women Who Love Them.” The presentations range from health information events and life skills, to a fashion show.

This year’s first program will be on Sunday, March 13, from 1 to 4 p.m., in the Academic Research Building conference rooms at the Health Center. The program will feature sessions appropriate for girls and women on body image, building a fitness regimen, bone health and fitness in everyday life, and how to manage money.

More information is available on the website.

“‘Just Us Girls’ presentations aren’t only for moms and daughters,” says Bennett, “but for aunts, mentors, Girl Scout leaders, school counselors, or anyone who has a girl in their life they can bring to the program. They provide an opportunity not just for learning, but for girls and women to spend quality time with each other. We think that’s exciting.”