What is the BrdsNBz program?
BrdsNBz is a national sexual health text line for teens. BrdsNBz is owned and operated by the American Sexual Health Association (ASHA). Additional information about the national BrdsNBz program can be found here.
How is the BrdsNBz program carried out in Virginia? Who has oversight of the program?
The Virginia Department of Health’s (VDH) Office of Family Health Services contracted with ASHA to make state-specific information available to young people who contact the BrdsNBz text line. The program launched in Virginia in October 2019. The text line allows Virginia adolescents to text and receive responses to sexual health questions from a health educator. ASHA administers and manages all aspects of the text line. ASHA’s trained health educators respond to text messages within 24 hours of receipt. OFHS’s Division of Child and Family Health has oversight of the program’s activities in Virginia.
Who is ASHA and what do they do?
ASHA is a nonprofit organization focused on education, collaboration and advocacy for sexual health. Additional information regarding ASHA can be found here.
Who provides responses to the questions texted to the “66746” number?
The American Sexual Health Association (ASHA) manages all aspects of the text line. Text messages that are received are answered within 24 hours by one of ASHA’s trained health educators. BrdsNBz health educators are trained to provide medically accurate, age-appropriate and affirming sexual health information. They will not diagnose medical issues but will refer the user to seek the help of a medical professional. BrdsNBz health educators often counsel users to seek the advice of a parent or other trusted adult. The health educators maintain a strict confidentiality policy unless the user indicates the danger of imminent harm, at which time the health educators follow a red flag protocol.
What qualifications do ASHA’s health educators have to be answering these sensitive questions?
ASHA was established in 1914 and has a long history of providing accurate sexual health information to young people. All of ASHA’s health educators participate in ASHA-created training modules on a variety of sexual health topics after they are hired. These modules were informed by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine, among other organizations. ASHA’s health educators have a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree and have work experience in a variety of health and education-related backgrounds. All health educators undergo background checks before they are hired.
What guidelines do ASHA’s health educators follow when answering questions?
Health educators are trained to provide accurate sexual information in a manner that is supportive, age-appropriate and objective. ASHA’s health educators will not give opinions or tell young people what to do; the goal of each health educator is to empower young people with the information they need to make their own sexual health decisions. If a young person needs medical advice, ASHA health educators will refer young people to their medical professional or connect them with resources to seek medical attention as needed. ASHA will also not answer any questions about sexual techniques.
ASHA uses a texting system called Mosio to manage BrdsNBz. This system allows health educators to see all teen questions and all health educator responses. A supervisor also monitors the content of the text line.
Which households in Virginia were targeted for the postcard mailing?
A postcard campaign was recently carried out to promote and market the program. Postcards were mailed to adults in households with young people between the ages of 13-17 and legal adults ages 18-19 in counties with the highest overall teen pregnancy rates in the state (18 per 1,000 or higher).
How is the BrdsNBz program funded?
The VDH contract with ASHA to participate in the BrdsNBz text line program was funded by federal funds from the Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant.
The postcard campaign was supported by the Title V State Sexual Risk Avoidance Education (SRAE) Grant administered by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The purpose of the federal SRAE grant is to fund states and territories to implement education exclusively on sexual risk avoidance that teaches youth to voluntarily refrain from sexual activity.
Are there other text lines that provide sexual health information to teens?
- Pennsylvania Department of Health: Safe Teens
- Iowa Department of Health: TxTina
- Minnesota Department of Health: MN Family Planning & STD Hotline
- Rhode Island Department of Health: Right Time App
What if a parent does not feel comfortable with a mailout like this being sent to their home?
Postcards were mailed by VDH to adults in an effort to raise awareness among both caregivers and young people about the availability of this national program. Since postcards were mailed to adults, not minor children, VDH did not notify parents prior to mailing the postcards.
Is there a need for a sexual health text line?
The decision to launch the national BrdsNBz program in Virginia was based on an inventory of existing services for young people, local public health data, the availability of similar state-specific text lines in other states and Title V Maternal and Child Health Block Grant priorities. The Title V MCH needs assessment conducted this summer by VDH found that only about half of sexually active young people reported using condoms, and even less reported using other forms of contraception. Furthermore, in this needs assessment, young people expressed a desire for more readily available, accurate and inclusive sexual health information.
Is there a way to get my name off of the postcard mailing list?
Who do I contact for additional information?
Contact the Reproductive Health team at reproductivehealth@vdh.