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Independent Evaluation Report

Report of independent evaluators highlights strengths of Healthy Respect and outlines paths for improvement

An independent research team found that Healthy Respect, the New York abstinence in preparation for marriage program, is reaching the hearts and minds of young people as they face important decisions in their lives.

Comments from students in post-class focus groups showed that the Healthy Respect message about abstinence is getting through: abstinence is not only saying ‘no’ to extra-marital sex but ‘yes’ to a positive outlook and goals for future achievement.

Student comments included:

“Abstinence is the safest way to make sure you don’t get any STDs that ruin your life.”

“They taught us how you might have a baby and your whole life will be messed up at a young age.”

Summing up what she learned in the Healthy Respect classes, one female student said, “Shorter goals lead to higher ones.”

Written by a team of independent Queens College sociologists, the report on the confidential survey indicates that inner-city students who are at high risk for dropping out of school and other negative outcomes, are hearing the Healthy Respect message and taking it personally. Thus, the students are in a better position to make good choices, avoid teen pregnancy, stay in school, stay away from drugs and prepare for a more successful life.

The report states that Healthy Respect “serves predominately African American and Latino high school and middle school students who report a number of strong fears about violence, sexual diseases, and their futures. In the focus groups, students reported connecting to the program’s message of setting and pursuing life goals and protecting oneself from STDs and out-of-wedlock pregnancies.”

“We are very encouraged by the results of this student survey because they show we are reaching students on a personal level,” said John P. Margand, Esq., Executive Director of Healthy Respect. “We plan to use this report to concentrate on what we do well and also to improve other parts that need review, so that we can continue to provide the best possible program for our students. As always, the focus of Healthy Respect is on the health and future of the students.”

According to the survey, there was a dramatic increase -- 29 percent -- in the number of students who agreed that abstinence is the best way to avoid pregnancy. Almost as high -- 24 percent -- was the increase in the number of students who agreed that abstinence is the only certain way to avoid sexually transmitted diseases.
Also, there was a 13 percent increase in the number of students who were aware that STDs can be transmitted through sexual activity other than intercourse, and a 19 percent increase in those who know that not all STDs can be cured.

The survey, based on responses from 155 students in two Yonkers public schools, involved pre-class and post-class questionnaires and more detailed questions and answers from students taking part in focus groups.

Heading up the survey was Dr. Robin Rogers-Dillon, Associate Professor of Sociology at Queens College, who obtained her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and studied Health Care Policy at Yale University. Assisting was Dr. Dana Weinberg, Associate Professor of Sociology at Queens College, who received her doctorate at Harvard University.

They wrote in their summary that students “told numerous stories of violence, incarceration, poverty, and addiction experienced by their friends, neighbors, family members and occasionally, themselves. Despite the difficulties around them, most of the students, both male and female, reported very mainstream goals for their adult lives: ‘A car, a job, a house’, ‘Money, a job, a good education’, ‘a career, a family.’ Yet they also reported a low sense of personal efficacy – the belief in one’s ability to control one’s own life – that is predictive of many bad outcomes including poor health and low educational attainment. In other words, [Healthy Respect] students reported productive goals but appeared not to have all of the skills needed to achieve these goals. Not surprisingly given the mismatch between goals and skills, students reported liking that the class helped them to figure out how their actions now were likely to affect them in the future.”

Dr. Rogers-Dillon commented further, “From the focus groups, it is clear that students have a very strong association with Healthy Respect and its message.”