Princeton, New Jersey
HiTOPS, a free standing adolescent health clinic in Princeton, New Jersey, provides comprehensive primary and preventive health care to adolescents and young adults ages 13-26 and also provides health education to adolescents and to their teachers, parents, and caregivers. Established in 1989 in response to an unmet need in the community for adolescent reproductive health care and education, the center has since grown to being a comprehensive adolescent health and education facility. Funded primarily through corporation, foundation, and individual support, HiTOPS is open six days a week to deliver physical, reproductive, and primary mental health care, risk-reduction counseling, intensive and health promotion to some 1,800 young people, most of whom are low-income and about a third of whom are minority. Part of the center’s philosophy is to encourage adolescents who “just want to talk” to come to the center to meet with a nurse practitioner alone or with a partner or group of friends. Staff assure confidentiality and tell adolescents no question is “too silly” or “too stupid” to ask.
The center is staffed by a range of professional clinicians and educators, including social workers, certified nurse midwives, nurse practitioners, nurses, certified health education specialists, and health educators. A team of OBGYNs, adolescent medicine specialists, and urologists provides support and consultation and psychiatrists and psychologists are linked to the center through referral relationships.
Health education is integral to the center’s mission, and HiTOPS’ educational programs have received national recognition. Adult educators lead programs that convey factual information and teach risk-reduction strategies and skills for decision-making. These programs are delivered at the HiTOPS center, in middle and high school settings as part of health classes, at community-based agencies, scout meetings, youth groups, and private homes. There are also programs for teachers and parents, who are able to identify their own topics for an education series. iQuit, the technology-based smoking cessation program that HiTOPS developed itself is illustrative of the special capabilities of the HiTOPS staff. The program, which targets 18 to 24 year-old smokers, consists of a web site, www.iquitathitops.com, contains podcasts, text messaging, and email access to a tobacco dependence treatment specialist for individualized counseling.
Health education is also available from peer health educators, high school seniors who participate in the HiTOPS Teen Council and receive over 140 hours of training in human sexuality, presentation skills, group facilitation, and interactive educational techniques. They provide workshops for middle school and high school-aged youth at juvenile justice facilities, schools, and community agencies throughout the state on a number of topics, including postponing sexual involvement, dating violence, pregnancy prevention, HIV/AIDS, homophobia reduction and date rape. In collaboration with the Princeton Center for Leadership Training and the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, HiTOPS developed a sexual health peer education program called Teen Prevention Education Program (Teen PEP), a for-credit class offered in 50 schools throughout New Jersey and two in North Carolina. The HiTOPS peer education curriculum and video package, “One by One: Teens Explore Date Rape” won a national Telly Award, which is given to exceptional educational teaching tools and materials.
In an effort to serve more of the area’s Hispanic population, HiTOPS has developed Latina Health Education and Empowerment Program (LHEEP), an educational outreach program targeted specifically at adolescent Latinas. Its purpose is to increase awareness about HIV, STDs, and pregnancy prevention among young Trenton and Princeton Latinas. The HiTOPS Latina Outreach Coordinator meets with participants after school for eight weeks and provides culturally relevant, science-based prevention education. The curriculum is reinforced as the group creates its own HIV or pregnancy prevention Public Service Announcement (PSA) or other outreach strategy for a targeted audience.
For more information, please visit http://www.HiTOPS.org.