News Release: Research, University News

Nov. 24,  2008

Emory's Jane Fonda Center Receives Grant for Building Healthy Teen Relationships Program

 The Jane Fonda Center at Emory University has been selected to receive up to a $1 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation aimed at reducing the nation’s unacceptable level of intimate partner violence through early prevention.

The Jane Fonda Center is one of 11 organizations in the United States receiving funding for the “Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships” four-year initiative aimed at middle school youth.

The Jane Fonda Center will collaborate with local partners, including the Teen Services Program at Grady Health System and Atlanta Public Schools (APS). The target population for the project is the nearly 10,000 students in the 6th, 7th and 8th grade in the APS. Its student population is 86 percent African American and 75 percent low income, and includes the 1,500 youth who visit the Teen Services Program at Grady annually. The initiative, which has been named locally the “Celebration” initiative, will also target parents, teachers, community groups and other teen influencers.

“Interpersonal relationship skills are not automatic; they are learned,” says Dr. Melissa Kottke, assistant professor of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine and director of the Jane Fonda Center. “Our goal is to educate youth about healthy relationships in age and developmentally appropriate ways.

“By highlighting positive qualities such as self-respect and respect for others, along with effective communication skills and personal responsibility, we hope to foster an environment where teenage dating violence and abuse is not practiced and is not accepted,” says Kottke.

Kottke is the principal investigator of the national initiative at Emory.

As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care for all Americans, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is working to discover new public health models that can not only reduce intimate partner violence among teens through intervention, but can change the attitudes and behaviors that transform social norms about intimate partner violence overall. 

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and its California partner, Blue Shield of California Foundation, are investing $18 million to prevent teen dating violence and abuse. With 11 sites from around the country, the “Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships” initiative will enable communities to create and evaluate comprehensive models of prevention for this serious public health issue. 

“Intimate partner violence is one of our nation’s most serious public health problems,” says Dr. James Marks, senior vice president and director, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Group. “It is well past time we looked at prevention. The Jane Fonda Center at Emory is a leader in taking steps to building a coalition to end intimate partner violence. We congratulate them in their successful grant application and are eager to see the impact they and our other grantees will make for families in their communities.”

The local “Celebration” initiative includes implementing a skill-building education program for middle school students to help them better understand and manage their sexual feelings and behaviors in healthy positive ways. The project will engage older teens as educators and role models for this population. Other teen influencers such as parents, health care providers, and teachers will receive intimate partner violence training at the Jane Fonda Center and at other agencies in Atlanta.

Through partnerships with Fulton County Department of Health and Wellness, the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, healthy relationship education will also be taught to at-risk youth and to youth who are no longer in school due to pregnancy or delinquency.

“We are honored to have been selected for this nationwide initiative,” says Marie E. Mitchell, director of programs at the Jane Fonda Center. “By working to increase positive messaging to targeted youth, reaching youth in diverse settings, and training teen mentors, teachers and parents, this community program will discourage cultural acceptance of intimate partner violence and provide the next generation of youth with a skill set to build relationships free from physical, sexual and emotional violence.”

An independent research group will conduct a national evaluation of “Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships” that will run concurrently with the program. This national evaluation team will work closely with the Family Violence Prevention Fund, one of the nation's leading organizations working to prevent domestic and sexual violence, to identify best practices from each community partnership and evaluate the program’s impact and effectiveness.


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