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Jefferson Award Winner Helps Teens Benefit From New Tech

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Jefferson Award winner Deb Levine (CBS)

Jefferson Award winner Deb Levine (CBS)

(CBS 5) — Nielsen research shows the average teen sends more than 3,000 texts a month. So what better way to reach them with an important message about health? That’s exactly what this week’s Jefferson Award winner is doing.

Move over email, when it comes to teenage communication, texting is it! And that’s how the new anti-violence app “Circle of Six” is reaching young adults.

“We put together this very simple iPhone app where you can contact six of your friends from your contact list and prevent a situation from happening,” explained Deb Levine, designer of the app.

A situation like dating violence might be avoided with with a push of a button. Say you feel threatened on a date:

“With a tap of your finger tip you can simply say ‘call me I need an interruption,'” Levine said.

Or you’ve lost your ride and need a way home, a text message goes out to six of your friends saying, ‘Hi, I need a ride and here are my GPS coordinates.’ It’s free, discreet, and just the latest innovation from Deb Levine and her non profit ISIS: Internet Sexuality Information Services.

“What we try to do is take technology that’s already been developed, that’s in use by the general population, but apply for social good,” said Levine.

She’s pioneered using technology to educate youth on sexual health, starting with the first health question and answer service on line: “Go Ask Alice.” Levine was fresh out of grad school and working as a health educator at Columbia University when she started a campus website to answer students health questions. Go Ask Alice would grow to become the go-to resource for sexual health on the fledgling world wide web.

“We were on to something in 1993,” Levine mused. “And we’re still on it. We’re still on the same path.”

That path that has taken Levine from the origins of the internet to today’s cutting edge technology – everything from mobile health tips to social media campaigns on sexual health, to online notifications that alert partners that they may have been exposed to an STD.

San Francisco State University student Arai Buendia now works as an intern with Levine and the ISIS team.

“Deb has been able to move this sexual health forward and not just stayed with one on one peer education,” Buendia said.

And that means critical information is reaching a larger audience than ever.

“The goal for ISIS is to raise a next generation, and a next generation of sexually responsible, mature, healthy adults,” said Levine.

So for adapting sexual health information to the digital age, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Deb Levine.

(Copyright 2012 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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