When it comes to taking care of her health, 16-year-old Tityana Parker is on top of it. She eats right, exercises and gets regular check-ups at NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Cumberland.
But, unfortunately, many other teens can be indifferent to their health. Tityana says some teens feel invincible and fail to consider the real risks of being careless with their sexual health. Even worse, others seeking information on safe sex are too embarrassed to talk to their doctor or primary care provider.
To help those Brooklyn teens, Cumberland Health Center opened a dedicated YouthHealth Center offering primary care, sexual health services, STI testing, emergency contraception and birth control in a confidential and safe environment. In addition to health care, the new suite will provide social services and workstations for young people to complete tasks, including homework assignments.
Cumberland currently sees 375 adolescent patients each year, and the new center is expected to increase to 1,500 patients.
For Tityana, the new center will give her the chance to learn more about physical and emotional changes that happen during adolescence. She also hopes to use the information to educate her friends about sexual health.
“Some people might not know a lot about sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or HIV, so it’s good to be informed about these things before they can happen and to be safe about it,” said Tityana, a student at John Dewey High School.
In addition to the Cumberland Center, NYC Health + Hospitals has dozens of YouthHealth Centers across the city where teens can make an appointment without the consent of a parent and access sexual health services. A judgment-free zone at all Youth Health Centers allows teens to communicate openly with a doctor or nurse in order to get the care they need to stay healthy.
“Adolescents need a safe space to call their own,” said Angela Glasscock, nurse practitioner at Cumberland Health Center. “We provide comprehensive, confidential and inclusive health care for all youth from age 12 to 21 years old.”
Though Tityana says many teens don’t often ask their parents about sexual health, she knows that this information is essential for teens to remain healthy. She has encouraged her friends to start being responsible for their own sexual health, since doing so will better prepare them for later in life when they make their own decisions.
Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris joined Tityana Parker at the opening of the YouthHealth Center at NYC Health + Hospitals/Gotham Health, Cumberland.
“It’s better to come to a place that’s a little more private because you can feel safer,” Tityana said. “There are people there that know what you’re talking about and listen to you.”
Tityana notes that some teens feel most comfortable only when a fellow teen talks to them about sex, so with that in mind, she has used what she’s learned at the center to talk directly to her friends.
“I think it would be more comforting than hearing something from an adult,” she said. “Usually when we hear from adults, it feels like they’re just telling us or instructing us to do things. But when you hear it from someone else around your age range, it’s more like advice.”
In addition to providing teens with sexual health services, the new adolescent center offers immunizations, nutrition information, forms for working papers and sports forms for school. Staff members also offer teens referrals for dermatology, ophthalmology and eye care services.
Tityana has already spread the word about Cumberland’s new YouthHealth Center, and she says she thinks her fellow teens will come check it out so that they can start taking control of their health.
Learn more about the health system’s YouthHealth services.
For more information and a list of YouthHealth locations near you, visit nycyouthhealth.org.