Promoting Healthy Teen Relationships


Preventing teen dating violence requires a comprehensive approach involving diverse partnerships working across multiple levels of the social ecology to influence the norms and behaviors of individuals, families, peer groups, community and government organizations, neighborhoods, and the society at large. Dating Matters™: Strategies to Promote Healthy Teen Relationships (DM), launched by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is a comprehensive teen dating violence program that promotes respectful, nonviolent dating relationships among youth in high-risk urban communities.

Four local health departments that serve high-risk urban communities are implementing DM, which provides the opportunity to address gaps in research and practice by developing a comprehensive prevention program, developing an initiative that reflects the entire public health model, and engaging the local public health sector in teen dating violence prevention. The initiative supports communities as they implement prevention strategies in schools, with families, and in neighborhoods.

As part of DM, NACCHO developed the DM Guide for Informing Policy, which was designed to provide information about how to inform policy with the best available evidence. The DM initiative's comprehensive approach to teen dating violence prevention includes a range of prevention strategies, including youth and parent education and skill-development programs, educator training, communication strategies, policy strategies, and evaluation and surveillance for individuals, peers, families, schools, and neighborhoods.

Although informing policy development, implementation, and evaluation can be challenging, long-term work, policy interventions have the potential for sustained impact over time at a population level and are often an effective use of community resources. The policy process affords many opportunities to expand reach, to engage partners and other stakeholders to help raise awareness of teen dating violence, and to guide the articulation of broad, science-informed, mutual understanding of solutions throughout the community.

NACCHO is also involved in the DM Indicators Project, which focuses on collecting indicator data that can be used to detect the presence of teen dating violence within a community. Teen dating violence indicator data are summary statistics that can be used to quantify the incidence of teen dating violence, correlates of teen dating violence, and response to teen dating violence in a given community. The purpose of this project is to begin to see how accurate indicator data is at predicting teen dating violence perpetration and victimization.

The most optimal way to assess teen dating violence prevalence is with self-report methodology, however, expense and limited manpower preclude many communities from collecting self-report data. This project focuses on the collection of data from the fields of education, healthcare, and judicial/law enforcement. To aid DM grantees in collecting indicator data, NACCHO developed an issue brief on interagency data sharing, titled "Connecting the Dots: A Data Sharing Framework for the Local Public Healthy System."