Texting for Health: SafeTeens Answers! “upgrades” health education with new technology

10320389_1010719762272095_5796390028425418392_nMaternal and Family Health Services announces the launch of SafeTeens Answers!, Pennsylvania’s first teen health textline, at Temple University-Harrisburg’s third annual Adolescent Sexual Health Conference. The service allows Pennsylvania teens to ask questions of trained reproductive health educators and receive timely responses, all over text message, all for free.

“Maternal and Family Health Services has long been a leader in reproductive health,” says Bette Cox Saxton, the Wilkes-Barre-based organization’s President and CEO. “ And with SafeTeens Answers!, we’re introducing reproductive health education to new, innovative technology.”

To ask a question, users first text the keyword “SAFE” to 57890, the SafeTeens Answers! five-digit short-code. Within seconds, users receive a welcome message from SafeTeens Answers! and may begin texting questions. The program’s health educators are trained on a wide array of reproductive health topics, including anatomy, relationships, contraception and STDs.

“Teens often get reproductive health information from unreliable sources, such as Reddit or Yahoo! Answers” says MFHS Adolescent Outreach Coordinator Nick Sufrinko, who manages SafeTeens Answers! “The idea here,” Sufrinko says, “is to shift teens away from those unreliable health information-seeking practices to more reliable, safer information-seeking practices.”

SafeTeens Answers! is built on the success of MFHS’s thirteen-year-old teen health website, SafeTeens.org.

“Thanks to generous funding from the Anna Lalor Burdick Program of the Lalor Foundation,” Saxton said, “we’re able to bring this valuable service to Pennsylvania teens.” She continues, “Teens, when armed with safe, reliable information, are best equipped to make informed, healthy choices about their futures.”

More information on the SafeTeens Answers! Textline can be found at SafeTeens.org.