The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) has awarded $56,500 to each of three nonprofit agencies for innovative ways to reduce the epidemic levels of chlamydia in Minnesota. The grants run Oct. 1, 2015 to Dec. 31, 2017.

Chlamydia is the most frequently reported sexually transmitted disease (STD) in Minnesota with nearly 20,000 cases reported to MDH last year. It is also the most-reported infectious disease in Minnesota overall. The majority of cases were in young people 15 to 25 years old. Higher infection rates were seen among communities of color and American Indians.

“We are working to provide better access to STD testing and prevention programs to all communities, particularly to communities of color and American Indians who experience social, medical, and/or income disadvantages,” said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, Minnesota Commissioner of Health. “Expanding our partnerships through these grants will help to ensure that these programs are culturally acceptable and directed to those communities and age groups with the highest need.” The grants are consistent with the recommendations in the state’s Advancing Health Equity Report and efforts to reduce or eliminate health disparities, Ehlinger noted.

The grants were awarded competitively to qualified agencies based on recommendations of a community review committee that reviewed and scored the proposals. The grant award recipients are:

  • High School for Recording Arts
    The awarded project, “I Imagine – We Discover,” is a community-level chlamydia prevention strategy that uses purposeful storytelling to deliver messaging person to person. Unlike traditional marketing that relies on television, billboard, and radio advertising, this intervention will use culturally specific peer-to-peer message design. High School for Recording Arts (HSRA), based in St. Paul, has for over a decade provided young people a chance to realize their full potential, despite any previous setbacks. HSRA is a project-based, public charter school that operates within and around a professional recording studio.
  • Face to Face Health & Counseling
    The goal of this awarded project is to develop a chlamydia and gonorrhea awareness and screening program for a college setting that can be replicated on other campuses. The initial project site will be at Saint Paul Community College and will engage students, faculty and administrators to create an adaptable intervention. Face to Face empowers youth to overcome barriers and strive toward healthy and self-sufficient lives. Begun in St. Paul in 1972, Face to Face now serves more than 3,300 homeless and underserved youth and young adults ages 11 to 23 annually.
  • NorthPoint Health and Wellness Center – Community Restoring Urban Youth Sexual Health (CRUSH)
    The awarded CRUSH project will improve the sexual health and awareness and testing for chlamydia of teens and young adults, ages 15 to 22, in Minneapolis. Through a series of city-wide community forums for parents/guardians and youth, this youth-led effort –  SECRETS SPREAD IT! TALK ABOUT IT – will educate the community on how to impact chlamydia rates, increase accessibility to STD services, and provide medical referrals as needed for participants. CRUSH is a Minneapolis-based partnership of clinics, youth-serving organizations and community members formed in 2013 to address the increasing rates of chlamydia infections among teens and young adults in their communities. CRUSH established the annual STI Testing Day observance in the Twin Cities.

The Minnesota Chlamydia Partnership (MCP), a statewide coalition in which MDH participates, has developed an action plan in response to the chlamydia epidemic in the state. The MCP began when a group of more than 300 concerned partners and community members across Minnesota met at a summit in 2010 to discuss the epidemic of chlamydia among young people — and to develop a plan of action for addressing it. See the Minnesota Chlamydia Strategy: Action Plan to Reduce and Prevent Chlamydia in Minnesota for more information.

One of the key strategies of the plan is to engage citizen participation at every level of the process, said Candy Hadsall, STD nurse specialist with MDH’s STD, HIV and TB section. “Strategies developed by the community members most impacted are more likely to succeed,” she said. The grant awards reflect MDH’s on-going efforts to involve citizens of impacted communities in finding and implementing solutions. In fact, the STD, HIV & TB Section is the first state STD program in the country to ask communities to take the lead in combating chlamydia.