St. Luke's University Health Network

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Mobile Clinic Teaches Safety and Respect

St. Luke's Mobile Clinic Teaches Safety and Respect

Julie Kindig, RN, BSN, chats
with a student on HealthStar.

Program Educates Local Teens on Dangers of Dating Violence

Bethlehem, PA (2/25/2011) - While bullying continues to present a problem in schools across the country, an equally troubling issue affects many teenagers – dating violence. An estimated one in three adolescent girls in the United States is a victim of physical, emotional or verbal abuse from a dating partner.

Recognizing the Warning Signs

The difficult part for many teens is not being able to recognize the warning signs, or even being confused about exactly what behavior is abusive. According to St. Luke's Community Health nurse coordinator, Julie Kindig, RN, BSN, many young teens may misinterpret their partner's jealousy or possessiveness as “romantic” behavior.

“The key to positive teen dating experiences is education,” states Kindig. “Teenagers can learn to choose better relationships if they understand what an abusive relationship is and recognize that they have a right to be respected.”

Mobile Health Clinic Program

During the school year, St. Luke's Community Health Department educates hundreds of local teens through its Mobile Youth Health Clinic program. Two mobile vans, HealthStars M1 and M2, visit schools daily providing free education, medical assessments and referrals to community based resources and services.

“While our Mobile Youth program provides comprehensive support and medical care for the students, we have also started to focus on domestic violence and dating violence issues. Our primary goal is to provide access to health care and education that has a special focus on healthy lifestyle choices, including nutrition and physical activity,” says Kindig. “Sneaking in some education about healthy relationships is an added bonus.”

Last year, St. Luke's served 1,292 students in the Bethlehem Area School District. With the recent addition of a second van, HealthStar M2, St. Luke's plans to expand its services to the Allentown School District.

“There is a definite need to educate our children about life issues,” states Kindig. “Sometimes these difficult subjects are not discussed at home, and students may feel more comfortable talking with a nurse or non-family member.”

Parents can be proactive by looking for warning signs and encouraging their children to discuss tough topics. Some warning signs may include: changes in mood or personality, falling or failing grades, use of drugs/alcohol, depression and decreased self-esteem. Of course, physical signs of injury like cuts and bruises are also cause for concern.

Kindig recommends being attentive when your teen is dating. Stay involved and openly communicate with your teen so that they feel comfortable approaching you.

“Teenagers need to remember that no one deserves to be abused or threatened,” says Kindig. “If someone truly cares about you, they will treat you with respect and love.”

For more information on St. Luke's Community Health programs and to get involved, call St. Luke's InfoLink at 1-866-STLUKES.

If you or someone you know is being abused, contact Turning Point of the Lehigh Valley for information and help: 610-437-3369.