Date of Award

January 2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Ijeoma Opara


Background: In the United States, Latina girls between the ages of 15-24 are disproportionately impacted by negative sexual health and substance use outcomes. A majority of sexual health and substance use prevention interventions have fallen short of reducing disparities among Latina girls due to their use of a deficit lens and their focus on risk behaviors only. The purpose of this study was to use Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) principles to develop a culturally appropriate and strengths-based sexual health and substance use toolkit for Latina adolescents in Paterson, NJ.Methods: YPAR principles were used to create a Latina Youth Advisory Board consisting of three Latina girls living in Paterson and between the ages of 17-20. In a series of three focus groups in the form of focus groups, girls on the board were asked for their thoughts on sexual health/ substance use topics, important cultural values in their community, and graphic design ideas. Results: Based on a literature review, themes from the Latina Youth Advisory Board meetings, and a review of existing online resources, we decided to focus the toolkit on skills for building healthy romantic relationships. The “Healthy Relationships Toolkit for Latina Girls” aims to empower Latina girls from Paterson between the ages of 13-18 to make their own best decisions through a self-guided online toolkit consisting of information-based sections and self-reflective exercises. Conclusion: Utilizing an adapted version of YPAR methodology for the development of the toolkit was critical in creating a resource that was tailored to the specific needs and cultural values of Latina girls in Paterson, NJ. The development process of this toolkit provides insight for policymakers and researchers to incorporate youth voices into the development of sexual health and substance use programs.


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