Curious teens in the Baltimore area can now log onto a new website (www.yuhip.org) to find information on health issues, clinics, and job opportunities. They can ask doctors and health educators all kinds of questions, as well as learn the facts about sexually transmitted diseases and read compositions written by their contemporaries. This website is from the Youth Urban Health Information Project (YUHIP), part of the division of Adolescent Medicine at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children, and is supported by a fellowship grant from the Open Society Institute.
"The website is a health education tool to provide Baltimore teenagers access to youth-friendly services and to serve as an open forum for adolescent issues," says YUHIP Coordinator Kalima Young. The goal is to have health care providers, community-based organizations and even schools refer teens to the site so they can get accurate information about the issues and problems urban teens face every day.
Young also sees the YUHIP website as a way "to bridge the digital divide." She says a recent survey finds that 47 percent of urban teens have access to a computer at home, at school and in libraries, which in turn means they can also access this information.
Dr. Ligia Peralta, director of Adolescent Medicine at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children and YUHIP Supervisor, knows teenagers can be misinformed about their health. "Young people don't always know all the facts. They have questions about their bodies and their sexuality, this website will be one place where these questions can be answered," adds Dr. Peralta, who is also an associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.
Dozens of local teenagers have contributed ideas to the site, including input on content and design. Also, teens have written poems, essays, raps and even words of wisdom that are included on the site. "I felt that my entire life had crashed when the doctor diagnosed me with chlamydia," writes a young man who shares his feelings about his past risky behavior when he did not practice safe sex. Now he worries he may have HIV and is getting regular testing.
A young woman writes her thoughts on teen pregnancy, "Young mothers should never think that they cannot go to school or travel, they just have to realize that having a baby will make these things harder to do."
"The teens who work on this website help keep it current," says Young who believes this site is something urban teens can relate to. Everyone at YUHIP is anxious to get the word out that the website exists. In the upcoming months, there are plans to make the site even more dynamic, including adding a link to a chat room for teens to share ideas and concerns.
YUHIP is one of many community health projects available through the Adolescent Medicine STAR TRACK program at the University of Maryland Hospital for Children. STAR TRACK is currently the only program of its kind in Maryland offering medical and psychological care to youths age 12 to 24 who are HIV positive or at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
For patient inquiries, call 1-800-492-5538 or click here to make an appointment.