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Philadelphia Department of Public Health


The Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) serves the sixth largest city in the United States, with a population of 1,517,550 persons; 110,701 of which are between 15–19 years of age. Adolescents are a group that remains disproportionately affected by STDs in Philadelphia. Annually, the highest case rates of gonorrhea and chlamydia occur in adolescents, ages 15–19. In 2002, the chlamydia case rate among females ages 15–19 was more than 8,000 per 100,000 population.

Year One (2008–2009)

During the first year, PDPH worked with the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) to develop a collaborative action plan that would build upon the Philadelphia High School STD Screening Program (PHSSSP). Since the inception of the PHSSSP, staff tracked a decline in the number of students desiring STD screening, a constant gonorrhea and chlamydia positivity rate, and a 12.6 percent reinfection rate at three months. In response, PDPH worked with the school district, young people, and community partners to identify HIV/STD screening sites for adolescents outside of school, identify family planning clinics for adolescents that provide year-round education and family planning services, and to identify behavioral interventions for high-risk adolescents. In order to meet the intended goals, PDPH identified two public high schools with a high annual number of gonorrhea and chlamydia cases and planned to host student advisory meetings at these two schools to learn more about their needs and then use this information to create an action plan for the 2009–2010 school year. Philadelphia’s student advisory meetings were not held due to low student turnout, so instead Philadelphia staff developed a short questionnaire and interviewed students individually to obtain feedback on the STD testing program.

Year Two (2009–2010)

During the second year, Philadelphia’s collaborative action plan focused on the following three goals: 1) increase access to sexual health services for youth in Philadelphia, 2) increase community awareness of sexual health resources for youth in Philadelphia, and 3) improve and incorporate findings from an evaluation of the Philadelphia High School STD Screening Program.

Key Accomplishments:

  • Successfully conducted three focus groups with youth to evaluate the Philadelphia High School STD Screening Program (PHSSSP). Through the focus groups, the PDPH gathered information on how to change the video they use in the school-based screening program, and measuring the impact the video has on student HIV/STD knowledge.
  • Began developing a compendium of local prevention services available to youth in Philadelphia schools in collaboration with key partners in the community. The compendium will eventually provide a comprehensive inventory of the sexual health educational activities in each Philadelphia school. The opportunity to collaborate in the development of the compendium has also afforded each participating member with a forum for cross-program/organization collaboration.

To review Philadelphia’s complete collaborative action plan for Year Two, click here.

Year Three (2010-2011)

During the third year, Philadelphia continued implementing and evaluating their collaborative action plan in order to achieve the following three goals: 1) increase access to sexual health services for youth in Philadelphia, 2) increase community awareness of sexual health resources for youth, and 3) use findings from the program evaluation of the Philadelphia High School STD Screening Program to implement improvements.

Key Accomplishments:

  • Successfully completed The Zelda Guide, a compendium of sexual health resources for youth in Philadelphia.  The compendium is the first of its kind in Philadelphia and will be a vital resource for students, community-based organizations, health departments, teachers, and school counselors.  Additionally, the work that went into developing the compendium strengthened PDPH''s partnerships with outside agencies.  The Zelda Guide was distributed through the launch of, a component of Philadelphia''s citywide condom distribution program, and will be distributed to schools at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year.
  • Continued to build and develop the Compendium Key Stakeholders Group, which included staff from Philadelphia''s AIDS Activities Coordinating Office, the Philadelphia School District, the Children''s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Family Planning Council, and local community-based organizations.  As a result of group meetings, there is better awareness of what sexual health educational activities are occurring in the schools and opportunities for cross-program collaborations were identified.

To review Philadelphia’s complete collaborative action plan for Year Three, click here.

Lessons Learned for Other Local Health Departments

  • LHDs would benefit from ensuring that the goals of any program truly reflect the goals and needs of both partner agencies, and that both agencies understand how the program will benefit them.
  • It is critical to have a committed partner within the local education agency (LEA).
  • LEAs should know that such initiatives are extremely labor-intensive and require endurance and active engagement over time for both partner organizations.
  • Evaluation and program implementation require a lot of attention. LHDs should ensure appropriate staffing is available to support desired outcomes.
Materials and Tools Developed

Community School-Based Sexual Education Programs Data Collection Instrument

Student Interview Guide

Zelda Guide: Health Services for Philadelphia Youth