College sophomore Sheila Shankar thought there was something missing at Penn.
Before this semester, there was no active group on campus specifically focused on reproductive and sexual health, so Shankar and four other students sought to change that.
Penn for Reproductive Health held their first General Body Meeting last week, which was also National Condom Week. PRH generally aims to be a support system for students who have questions about reproductive health, PRH co-founder and College sophomore Isabel Tejeda said.
“In college specifically, especially at Penn, it’s kind of a hard topic to deal with by yourself,” she added.
The group plans to work with Penn Women’s Center in the future and hold their GBMs there every week, Tejeda said.
Planned Parenthood provided PRH with free condoms to hand out on Locust Walk during National Condom Week to inform students about the new organization and sexual health in general. Shankar says one of the main goals of the group is to provide students with volunteer opportunities with Planned Parenthood.
PRH also intends to promote the reproductive health resources that are available on campus, making sure that students know what their options are. “The information is there, people just don’t know how to get it,” Shankar said.
One of the main ways they plan to increase awareness about reproductive health at Penn is a planned collaboration with Student Health Services and Campus Health Initiatives, the public health arm of SHS. Helath Educator for CHI Ashlee Halbritter explained it would be a valuable reciprocal relationship between PRH and SHS.
“The plan is that Student Health can serve as the sexual health expertise whenever the student group has questions or needs answers,” she said. “What the student group does for us in return is it helps us understand how we can better promote the resources that are available to students.”
SHS will work with members of PRH to make sure that the information about sexual health on their website is helpful and accessible to students, she added.
They plan to go through a number of specific sections, like those related to women’s health, sexual health and LGBT health, with PRH. They can let “us know if the information is clear from the student perspective or if there are resources that they still have questions about that we haven’t listed,” Halbritter said.
Shankar also hopes the collaboration will encourage students to consult SHS if they need health resources. She said some students have misconceptions about SHS’s privacy policies, which she hopes to clarify.
Halbritter said that SHS works hard to make sure that students understand their policies. “One of our big initiatives is to protect the privacy of the students and that their health info is theirs to own,” she said.
“It doesn’t really make sense for us to not be aware of the resources that are available to us,” Shankar added.