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New clinic improves health and wellness in local youth

Talking about sexuality with youth, especially with your children, can be challenging. However, sexuality is a normal, positive facet of lifelong health and wellness, and plays a vital role in the life of a teenager. Sexual development involves a number of complex issues, such as bodily changes, sexual behaviours and new health care needs. Developing emotional maturity, relationship skills and a healthy body image also factor in.

This time in a young person’s life can be very challenging. Youth often wonder about love, sex and relationships but don’t feel comfortable enough to speak to parents about their questions and concerns.

For this reason, the Wood Buffalo Primary Care Network (WBPCN) recently launched the new Teen Sexual Health Clinic in Wood Buffalo. The Clinic provides youth with a safe, comfortable and confidential environment to seek proactive, preventative care related to their sexual health.
Sarah Hore, a Fort McMurray native and Keyano College graduate, is a Registered Nurse with the Teen Sexual Health Clinic. According to Hore, the clinic is essential to the health and well being of local youth.

“It’s very important to engage teens as a specific population, making the care direct to them. Teen sexual health is often overlooked, but is essential to ensuring healthy youth in our community,” says Hore.

“In many instances, youth aren’t comfortable talking to their parents, their teacher or school counselor about their sexual health concerns,” she says. “By having the clinic available, youth are able to comfortably ask questions to a completely separate entity and we’re able to answer those for them.”

The clinic takes a non-judgmental, mutually respectful approach to the sensitive topic of teen sexuality and provides services with the goal keeping our community’s youth as safe and healthy as possible.

The clinic is offered in two locations: downtown Fort McMurray and Thickwood. Patients are seen by a Registered Nurse, who collaborates with a physician as needed.

A variety of services such as free contraception, birth control prescriptions, STI tests, pregnancy tests, emergency contraception, sexual health counseling, and abortion and adoption resources. Preventive education is also a significant focus of the clinic.

“Through the clinic, we’re empowering youth to be in control of their health through preventing illness. Our main means of doing that is through education,” says Hore. “A lot of the questions that I get are questions that teens don’t really ask anyone else and don’t necessarily have a good place to ask for credible information.”

According to Hore, WBPCN makes an ongoing, sincere effort to ensure the clinic is accessible and comfortable for youth.

“It’s really important to engage teens as a specific population, making the care direct to them,” says Hore. “We offer the clinic in two locations to make it easy for transportation. We’ve engaged the community by going out to schools,” says Hore. “We also offer the option for youth to check in to the clinic anonymously.”

She also says that WBPCN continues to adapt the program to ensure local youth are getting the most out of the program.

“In the short time we’ve been open; we’ve adapted the program already. We’ve added a cell phone to the clinic so that youth or the public in general are able to contact a clinic nurse directly via phone call or text,” she says. “This helps ensure that we’re able to reach the teens in a way that works for them.”

According to Hore, increased awareness has been a key accomplishment of the clinic to date.
“The clinic increases awareness of sexual health in local teens,” says Hore. “As we continue to work within the community, we’re going to see an improvement in the prevention both in STIs and unplanned pregnancies, and create optimal sexual health for youth in Wood Buffalo.”

This service was made possible by Local 488 United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters through a generous gift of $100,000 to the Northern Lights Health Foundation.

“The WBPCN has a longstanding relationship with the Northern Lights Health Foundation; the Teen Sexual Health Clinic would not exist without the support of the Health Foundation and in particular, its donor,” says Lori Apostal, Executive Director of WBPCN. “The Health Foundation is a beacon of our community’s altruism and compassion, and their impact on Wood Buffalo’s health care system to immeasurable”

To learn more about the Teen Sexual Health Clinic and the wide variety of services it offers for local youth, visit

This article was also published in Your McMurray Magazine.
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