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NY Hospitals Are Using Emoji to Educate Teens About Sexual Health

NY Hospitals Are Using Emoji to Educate Teens About Sexual Health
Image credit: AkilinaWinner | Getty Images
2 min read

We all know how hard it can be to get through to teens, especially when it comes to as touchy a subject as “the birds and the bees.” That’s why public hospitals in New York are pioneering a way to alleviate the awkwardness and communicate with kids in a language they know well: emoji.

Image credit: NYC Health & Hospitals

As part of a new NYC Health & Hospitals campaign to educate young people on sexual health and encourage them to take advantage of local resources, messages containing various emoji and the text, “Need to talk to someone about ‘it’?” are beginning to appear in teens’ Facebook and Instagram feeds. The eggplant and peach emoji are part of the campaign, as well as birds, bees and a monkey with its hands over its face.

The motive behind the ads is not only to educate teens about sex, but also to make them aware of the confidential care options -- from sexually transmitted disease testing to emergency contraceptives -- that the city provides at its 20 YouthHealth centers across the five boroughs. Clicking on one of the messages leads teens to the Health & Hospitals website, which provides information as well as a map with each YouthHealth center location labeled.

“We’re taking away all of the excuses for adolescents not to enroll in health care,” Dr. Warren Seigel, chairman of the department of pediatrics and director of adolescent medicine at Coney Island Hospital, told The New York Times.

But before you roll your eyes and dismiss the hospital system’s effort as an age-old attempt to jump the generation gap, think again. The campaign’s design goes beyond embarrassingly co-opted slang and taps into the universality of emoji. By conducting focus groups with teenagers, Health & Hospitals found that using emoji would be the best way to communicate about sexual health with young people, according to the Times.

The campaign launched Monday and will appear in teenagers’ Facebook and Instagram feeds throughout the Greater NYC Area.

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