Implementation Guide | Overview, Challenge, and Core Components

Project Overview

The Project Connect Health Systems Intervention (Project Connect) is an evidence-based, scalable intervention designed to increase the receipt of sexual and reproductive health care by at-risk youth by promoting health systems change. Project Connect provides a mechanism for linking youth into needed health care services, and has demonstrated its effectiveness in a large-scale research study. Results from the original trial conducted in a Los Angeles, CA public school district demonstrated an increase in receipt of birth control, pregnancy testing, and STD and HIV testing among intervention high school students, relative to controls. The Project Connect approach makes use of local level epidemiological and health systems data to identify community-based providers who are already doing a good job of providing sexual and reproductive health care to youth. A referral guide is then created containing pertinent information on the identified providers, which is then distributed to individuals within organizations with access to large numbers of at-risk youth for the purpose of referring youth to these community providers for care. 

The Challenge

Despite the need for sexual and reproductive health care services among youth, as evidenced by high rates of STDs and unplanned pregnancies, many youth are unable to access care from providers who are comprehensive and knowledgeable in their approach to these services and sensitive to youths’ particular needs. Changing provider behavior can be time and resource intensive. Instead, Project Connect links at-risk youth with providers who are already providing recommended services to youth, making it a low-cost and manageable structural intervention.

Core Components

This project includes four key elements:

  1. Identification and recruitment of organizations that have regular access to the target population. These organizations should have regular access to at-risk youth in need of sexual and reproductive health care services. Environmental scanning is a useful tool for identifying areas within your community where higher proportions of youth arte at risk for STDs, HIV, or unplanned pregnancy. Within these high-risk areas, those organizations which can most effectively reach at-risk youth should be considered as venues for the implementation of Project Connect.
  2. Identification and recruitment of health care providers who can provide high-quality sexual and reproductive health care. Project Connect is designed to promote linkages to health care providers within the community who are already doing a good job of providing sexual and reproductive health care services. The intent is not to include every health care provider in the area or to change provider behavior. Instead, the intent is to systematically identify good providers so that youth can be linked to them for services.
  3. Development and dissemination of a Project Connect Provider Referral Guide. Important information about chosen health care providers is included on a Project Connect Provider Referral Guide to be distributed to youth.
  4. Identifying and training key touchpoints. These are trusted individuals within implementing organizations to whom youth might turn for advice or guidance regarding sexual and reproductive health needs. Key touchpoints become the organizational hub for distribution of the Provider Referral Guide.

Implementation tip: For in-school implementation, possible key touchpoints include: school nurses, counseling staff, Title I coordinators, PE teachers, health teachers, parent center coordinators, and school based health clinic staff.