New Mexico launches texting service for sex ed

By Aditi Pai

BrdsNBzThe New Mexico Department of Health launched a sexual health texting service for teens and parents last week called BrdsNBz. While the service offers teens an alternative to their parents when they want to discuss sexual health, the service also allows parents to ask questions on talking to their kids about sex. The service is available in Spanish and English.

The service is based off a similar offering from the North Carolina's Health Department, which was launched in 2009.

“A lot of time people don’t want to ask questions because they think ‘I should know this’, or they think ‘If I don’t know this, it’s out of sight/out of mind’,” Educational Project Officer for the Family Planning Program Valerie Fisher said in a press release. “This program will hopefully cut through a lot of that anxiety.”

The teen birth rates in New Mexico have been declining over the past few years, according to Fisher, but New Mexico is still in the top three for teen birth rates nationally. To take part in the program teens text "NMTeen" and parents text "NMParent" to the hotline, 66746, and a trained health educator will respond within 24 hours.

Fisher said the program will also help the New Mexico Department of Health understand what’s going on in the state.

“It’s very easy for me to speculate what the issues are in communities, but until you really know why it’s going on, you can’t fix it," Fisher said.

North Carolina's texting program led to a study that analyzed what kinds of questions teens were asking. Published in 2012, the study titled ‘Can you get pregnant when u r in the pool?’ offers stats for what kinds of sexual health information teens didn't have. The majority of texts, 89 percent, sought information about sexual health topics, while 7 percent asked for advice, 4 percent asked for reassurance that the sender was developing normally. Overall the questions were mainly about sexual acts, unplanned pregnancy, contraception, physical or sexual development, and sexually transmitted diseases.

Other health departments in recent years have launched their own mobile health initiatives. MobiHealthNews compiled a list of apps that came out of those public health departments.