Updated Real Talk app brings sex education into the 21st century using new chatbot story submission feature

October 2, 2018 (Chapel Hill, N.C.) – Today, MyHealthEd, Inc. releases its newest version of Real Talk, a mobile app that uses authentic teen stories to make sex education modern, relevant, and engaging, as the tech nonprofit celebrates the one year anniversary of Real Talk’s beta release. Real Talk delivers crowdsourced stories about healthy relationships, puberty, and sexual health directly to teens, on their phones. The latest update includes a new chatbot story submission feature that was developed in response to overwhelming interest by teens to share their own stories via the app. 

In a time when only 13 states require medically accurate sex education in schools and only 10 states mention topics like “healthy relationships” or “consent” in their curriculum, teens are increasingly learning about sex and relationships from pornography. Real Talk launches at a critical point to ensure all teens can access high quality sexual health information and resources, short-circuiting institutional barriers to access by delivering content through a mobile app.

Real Talk reaches teen where they are: using real experiences from others like them via the privacy of their own phones. All stories are written by real teens and reviewed by public health experts before being published to the app. Each story is also paired with high quality, online sexual health resources for teens to learn more about each topic. Users can support others in the app through emoji reactions and search for topics relevant to them.

After successfully field testing the beta app with thousands of teens in 2017, the team is ready to expand through a national public launch with enhanced features. This update will also help even more teens access this essential health information, especially in places where high quality sex education currently isn’t available.

One 13 year old Real Talk user from Mississippi said, “My favorite thing about Real Talk is how you are able to read other peoples experiences with problems or feelings you are dealing with and know that you are not alone.” Other users report the same: that Real Talk provides a safe, judgement-free environment to share and learn about these important topics.

“We are thrilled to see the community of teens we’ve built through Real Talk.” says Cristina Leos, a co-founder of Real Talk. “With more than 1 in 3 users identifying as LGBTQ+ and nearly 70% of them living in states that do not require medically accurate sex education in schools, we’re addressing an important need in the lives of young people all over the country. We can’t wait to bring Real Talk to even more teens.”

With funding from the U.S. Office of Adolescent Health (Grant #: TP2AH000023-02-00), the Aetna Foundation, and Google.org, Real Talk was founded by a team of women - Cristina Leos, Vichi Jagannathan, and Liz Chen. Real Talk’s parent organization, MyHealthEd, Inc., is dedicated to using human-centered design to improve the health and well-being of youth of every identity.

For more information, visit www.realtalkapp.com.

About MyHealthEd, Inc. MyHealthEd, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to using human-centered design to improve the health and well-being of youth of every identity. Their flagship product, Real Talk, was founded in 2016 by Liz Chen, Cristina Leos, and Vichi Jagannathan, in efforts to increase access to sex education in low-income and rural communities. The organization is based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. For more information, visit www.myhealthed.org.

Media Contact: Vichi Jagannathan, Co-Founder

Email: founders@realtalkapp.com

Phone: (845) 702-6802

Liz ChenComment
100,000+ story views and an invite to our SF launch event on 10/2

Hello Real Talk community,

Today, we have more than 10,000 users across all 50 states and more than 80 countries. Together, our users have read over 100,000 stories and viewed more than 2,500 high-quality, online sex ed resources. Whoa!

We will be launching the new version of our app in the coming weeks and will be celebrating with a launch party hosted by two of our distinguished board members: Dan Carroll (Co-Founder @ Clever) and Nicole Cushman (Executive Director @ Answer). Liz will join Dan and Nicole in San Francisco on Tuesday, October 2nd for drinks and appetizers from 6:30 pm - 8:30 pm at Clever. Click here for more info on the event and to RSVP to save a spot! We invite you to join us to learn more about what we’ve accomplished in the past year and our plans for the next phase of Real Talk. Come say hi!

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In the past few months, we’re heard from teens that they really like the stories in our app -- so much, in fact, that they want to see the stories presented in more ways outside of the app. We listened and launched our new #realtalkdoodles project for teens across the country to turn stories in our app into illustrations to share with the world.

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#doodle

@k_mcnults helps us launch our new #realtalkdoodles project

As we make final preparations to unveil the new version of our app soon, here are a few requests for y’all:

  1. Do you have a teen/teens in your life who like to doodle/draw? Please forward this message to them so they can learn more about our #realtalkdoodles project.

  2. Is your organization/company interested in collecting stories from teens ages 13-15 on topics like puberty, relationships, or bullying through the Real Talk app? Email Liz (liz@myhealthed.org) to learn more about becoming a Real Talk content partner.

  3. Do you have someone in your network who has experience running YouTube ads or managing Google AdWords accounts? If yes, let Liz (liz@myhealthed.org) know.

Thanks for your interest in our work and we hope to hear from you soon.

All the best,

Liz, Vichi, and Cristina

Liz Chen
Happy 2nd birthday, MyHealthEd, Inc. and back-to-school updates 🍎

Hello Real Talk community,

Where has the time gone? We’re in back-to-school season and do you know what’s extra exciting about this back-to-school season? We’ll be releasing a new version of our Real Talk app in September just in time for a new school year! There will be new features including an interactive story submission process and push notifications to keep teens more up-to-date. We’ll be sharing more information in the coming weeks.

This week, Vichi and Cristina are in Denver, CO for the start of Uncharted’s Visible Connect accelerator program for tech nonprofits. We’re excited to be part of this cohort (along with many other FFWD alums!) and look forward to the nine months of mentorship and support Visible Connect will provide us so that we can continue to grow. Vichi and Cristina are pictured below with Uncharted’s CEO Banks Benitez and COO Sara Rodriguez.

 Vichi, Banks (Uncharted's CEO), Cristina, and Sara (Uncharted's COO) kickoff the 9-month Visible Connect accelerator in Denver, CO.

Vichi, Banks (Uncharted's CEO), Cristina, and Sara (Uncharted's COO) kickoff the 9-month Visible Connect accelerator in Denver, CO.

Happy 2nd birthday, MyHealthEd, Inc.!

We can’t believe that our tech nonprofit has been in existence for two whole years. As we reflect on all that’s happened since we incorporated, we are looking forward to all we have in store in the coming months. For example, Liz will be in San Francisco in early October when MyHealthEd board members Dan and Nicole will be hosting a Real Talk event for friends and supporters on 10/2. Want to be added to the invite list? Email Liz (liz@myhealthed) with “Real Talk event” in the heading.

We hope you can join Liz in SF on 10/2!

Thanks again for your support and we’ll be in touch soon!

All the best,

Liz, Vichi, and Cristina

Liz Chen
57% of stories from LGBTQ teens and top Real Talk search terms

Hello Real Talk community,

Happy summer! Liz and Cristina went out to San Francisco at the end of May to celebrate the end of our 18-month development grant from Power to Decide’s Innovation Next accelerator and to interview for the Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Social Innovation Award (formerly the Teach For America Social Innovation Award). While they were in the Bay Area, Liz and Cristina were able to connect with mentors from Power to Decide and Fast Forward (shout out to Christina and Nicole!), our developers, and other Real Talk champions (pictured below).

  Top picture -- Michael (Nitid), Liz, Laura (Power to Decide), Cristina, and Jeremy  (Nitid Bit) gathered at Nitid’s co-working space at WeWork Golden Gate for lunch and brainstorming. Bottom picture(s) -- Naya Bloom, Liz, Vinit (Learn Capital) reunited (Naya and Vinit supported Liz and Vichi when they were finalists for TFA’s Social Innovation Award back in 2014) and Cristina, Dan (MyHealthEd board member, Clever), Kurt (Department of Health Behavior, UNC), and Liz networked at the Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Social Innovation Award dinner.

Top picture -- Michael (Nitid), Liz, Laura (Power to Decide), Cristina, and Jeremy  (Nitid Bit) gathered at Nitid’s co-working space at WeWork Golden Gate for lunch and brainstorming. Bottom picture(s) -- Naya Bloom, Liz, Vinit (Learn Capital) reunited (Naya and Vinit supported Liz and Vichi when they were finalists for TFA’s Social Innovation Award back in 2014) and Cristina, Dan (MyHealthEd board member, Clever), Kurt (Department of Health Behavior, UNC), and Liz networked at the Arthur and Toni Rembe Rock Social Innovation Award dinner.

We’ve started running targeted social media ads to teens in the 10 states with the highest rates of teen pregnancy and will share updates next month about how that’s going. We will also release the next version of Real Talk with a revamped story submission experience later this summer; we’ve learned a lot from our users! We’ve also combed through the search terms teens have submitted so that we can continue to collect stories on these relevant topics. Since launch, here are the top 10 search terms in our Real Talk app in order of popularity:

  1. Sex

  2. Gay

  3. Acne

  4. Puberty

  5. Relationships

  6. Boner

  7. Depression

  8. Period

  9. Bisexual

  10. Lesbian

In May, more than half (57%) of the stories submitted to our Real Talk app were written by teens who self-identified as LGBTQ. This is incredible. We continue to be in awe of all the teens who are willing to share their personal stories about puberty, relationships, and bullying so that other teens can learn from them and feel less alone. Here’s is a recent story that was submitted to us by a student who identified as LGBTQ+:

I have been questioning my sexuality since fifth grade, for two years. At my last school, there were lots of boys and I had a crush on a lot of them, but I started to get a crush on my best friend. I kept telling myself that I was straight and just wanted to be bisexual or gay, but I now realize that I do like girls. The problem is, my new school is mostly girls, so I know for sure that I like girls. But there are barely any guys at my school to know if I like boys at all, and it confuses me. I don’t know what my sexual orientation is, and questioning sounds good but it confuses me making it sound like I for sure like guys and/or girls. I’m just very confused all together, and I feel pressured to just be gay. I don’t know what i am, and I feel like I can only be out to people if I have a label. I want to have a girlfriend or let people know that I’m LGBTQ+, but I feel like I need a label. It’s very stressful.  -- Female, 13

In other news, Liz has been named one of 60 North Carolina Influencers for a new project with The Charlotte Observer, The News & Observer, and the Durham Herald Sun to spark discussion about topics readers care about. Read what she had to say about education in this week’s article.

Moving forward, we are seeking expertise on marketing, specifically individuals in your network who are familiar with Google AdWords. If you have any leads, please email Liz at liz@myhealthed.org.

All the best,

Liz, Vichi, and Cristina

Liz Chen
Finalists for Teach For America’s Social Innovation Awards & search for new TAB members

Hello Real Talk community,

We hope that you had a lovely Memorial Day weekend! We can’t believe that it’s already the end of May and have some exciting updates to share with y’all:

  1. We are Finalists for the Teach For America 2018 Social Innovation Awards! Cristina and Liz will represent our Real Talk team in San Francisco at Final Round Interview Day on May 31st. To read more about how Liz’s Teach For America experience led to her work on Real Talk, read her recent guest post on EdNC here.

  2. Liz is married! And Vichi officiated the wedding ceremony back on May 5th (see picture below).

  3. Liz presented at the annual SHIFT NC conference with Power to Decide’s Katy Suellentrop to share more about the Innovation Next accelerator, design thinking, and our Real Talk app. Vichi and Cristina joined us in RTP after the presentation to say hello to Katy (pictured below)! Liz and Cristina were also interviewed by UNC’s Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases for their newsletter.

 Liz met her husband Dale while doing Teach For America in Eastern North Carolina. Vichi co-officiated the ceremony with Jay, another friend of Liz and Dale's who also did Teach For America, at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw, NC on May 5th. 

Liz met her husband Dale while doing Teach For America in Eastern North Carolina. Vichi co-officiated the ceremony with Jay, another friend of Liz and Dale's who also did Teach For America, at the Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw, NC on May 5th. 

 Cristina, Liz, Katy, and Vichi congregated in Research Triangle Park for the SHIFT NC annual conference on May 17th.

Cristina, Liz, Katy, and Vichi congregated in Research Triangle Park for the SHIFT NC annual conference on May 17th.

Soon, we’ll be looking for new teens (ages 13-15) to join our Teen Advisory Board (TAB). Since we collaborate with our teens remotely, our TAB members can be anywhere in the country. Do you know a teen who would be interested in making Real Talk better and spreading the word about the app? If yes, email Liz at liz@myhealthed.org with the subject “Real Talk TAB nomination” and she will send you quick next steps. Thank you in advance!

All the best,

Liz, Vichi, and Cristina

Liz Chen
Lessons learned from 12 experiments with 3,315 teens

Hello Real Talk community,

We've been busy! We are preparing for our next build phase to finish out our Innovation Next grant and have been prototyping and experimenting with teens across the U.S. to gather feedback about our current beta app. In fact, in the first quarter (Q1) of this year alone, we conducted 12 experiments with 3,515 teen users. Please see the infographic below for results and lessons learned.

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Now that we know that publishing 3 stories per day improves retention and engagement compared to publishing 1 story per day, we will focus our efforts to improve our story submission process so that we can crowdsource more content to support this increased rate. 

In the month of March, females submitted 59% of the stories in our app, males submitted 38%, and non-conforming/non-binary teens submitted 3%. Among the stories submitted, 39% of them referenced a LGBTQ+ experience like the story below. 

In the end of 6th grade I realized I was attracted to both Male and Female. It scared me at first and I thought it was wrong to think that way since kids who had come out prior to when I did were always bullied about it. I kept it a secret until the end of the summer when I decided to tell my cousin. I want to tell my cousin because she is in high school and I knew that she would be understanding. I pulled her aside and took her into the backyard where no one was. I told her, “I have something to tell you.” She replied, “Okay what is it.” I said straight up, “I’m bisexual.” She said, “Oh really? I thought you were completely gay tbh.” We both laughed and she hugged me and said, “Does anyone else know” And I replied, “No. And I don’t plan to tell anyone anytime soon” she nodded and zipped her mouth. We are extremely close and I am completely out and happy as can be that I didn’t wait until I was older. -- Male, 13

In the next few weeks, we look forward to building out and testing new functions in our app. We'll be in touch again soon as we look for teens to provide us with feedback on these new updates. As always, please reach out to Liz (liz@myhealthed.org) if you have any questions or comments about this blog post. 

Many thanks!

Best,

Liz, Vichi & Cristina

Liz Chen
Real Talk users read 7 stories per session

Hello Real Talk community,

We’re proud to say that Real Talk is in all 50 states and the District of Columbia within the U.S. -- and this includes the 26 states without mandated sex ed in schools. Currently, the states with the greatest number of users are California, Texas, and New York (TX and NY don’t mandate sex ed). Plus, Real Talk is in 53 countries across the globe! Since last month, we have again doubled our number of downloads! The average user session lasts 4 minutes and 27 seconds and users view an average of 7 stories per session.

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We’ve been prototyping around our app’s story submission experience to improve it. In order to make it better, we set out to learn why teens choose to submit stories in the first place. We want to understand these underlying motivations so that we can design a story submission process that is both delightful and that aligns with what teens want. In order to learn more from our teen users, we sent a short, two-question follow-up survey to those who had submitted stories the previous week. One question specifically asked teens why they submitted a story and here were some of their responses:

  • “I needed somewhere to vent about the issue I had had that week. Real Talk gave me an anonymous safe and secure environment to do that.”
  • “I felt that real stories from real teenagers can be more effective in helping then articles made by adults who haven’t lived the experience.”

  • “I wanted to help people like me going through the same situation.”

We are excited to create a community where teens feel safe and supported as they tell their stories and help other teens know they’re not alone.

This past month, we were featured in Swaay in an article featuring women-run apps that are changing sex education. We also launched our first social media campaign with partner organizations including Power to Decide (StayTeen), bc4u, Sex, Etc. and YTH.org to spread awareness about Real Talk. We are very grateful to our partners for sharing their lessons learned about social media marketing these past few weeks and look forward to further experimenting with this moving forward.

Soon, we’ll be looking for new teens (ages 13-15) to join our Teen Advisory Board (TAB). Since we collaborate with our teens remotely, our TAB members can be anywhere in the country. Do you know a teen who would be interested in making Real Talk better and spreading the word about the app? If yes, email Liz at liz@myhealthed.org with the subject “Real Talk TAB nomination” and she will send you quick next steps. Thank you in advance!

All the best,

Liz, Vichi, and Cristina

Liz Chen
Real Talk users are in 49 states and 40 countries!

Hello Real Talk community,

We’re excited to share that Real Talk has been downloaded more than 2,000 times, reaching users in 49 states across the United States and 40 countries; the countries with the most users outside of the U.S. include France, Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. We’ve more than doubled the number of downloads in the last month and will be exploring additional marketing strategies in the coming weeks beyond our current Instagram ad campaigns (see example below).

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Teens continue to share their personal stories with us through the app and we pair stories with high quality resources from credible sites including TeensHealth, Sex, Etc., Amaze.org, and Planned Parenthood. Here is one of the stories that was submitted this week:

How do u say no to society? Okay so I’m a part of the LGBTQ community. So me and my gf were at the mall and we were walking around holdings hands. I felt kinda weird because she’s my first gf. So anyways we were walking and this old man out of no where says ew. I started to freak out inside so i stopped holding her hand. That same day we went to a school dance and a slow song came on and we started dancing. While we were dancing I felt uncomfortable because I thought people were judging me because I was dancing with a girl. The thing is no one knows that I’m bisexual and I feel like people are going to make fun of me because of it. So that night after the dance we went home and she texted me that she had a great time and that after the slow dance she wanted to kiss me. I replied with “I’m glad you had a great time. I’m just not ready for the whole public thing yet.” I felt awful because she wants to be a “public couple” but I’m not ready yet. I just want society to be okay with love. It doesn’t matter what race, gender or sexuality you are. -- Female, 16

I just want society to be okay with love. It doesn’t matter what race, gender or sexuality you are.
— Female, 16

We will continue to monitor the search results in our app so that we can source relevant stories to publish. We are seeing trends for what kinds of topics are in high demand and are working to have sufficient stories available for all of these in-demand topics. Some of the most commonly searched topics in Real Talk include relationship, acne, puberty, and periods.

In the next few weeks, we will be hosting our first annual MyHealthEd, Inc. board retreat in Chapel Hill, NC and working with teens to prototype ideas for new features in our next build phase. Please reach out to Liz (liz@myhealthed.org) if 1) you work with teens who might be interested in testing out some new features OR submitting stories to be included in the app or 2) you work with teens and are willing to help us spread the word about Real Talk (we’ll provide the materials/social media posts). We look forward to working with more teens across the country!

Cheers,

Liz, Vichi & Cristina

Liz ChenComment
1000+ users and happy holidays, y'all!

Hello Real Talk community,

Thank you to our 52 supporters for celebrating #GivingTuesday with us! After revamping our website and running our short Facebook campaign, we were able to raise $3,126 to assist our efforts to reach 5,000 users by Valentine’s Day 2018 through Instagram marketing efforts. As of this week, Real Talk has been downloaded more than 1000 times -- hooray!

This month, the Innovative Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs (iTP3) project (the sister program to the Innovation Next accelerator) came to Tarboro, North Carolina to run a design thinking workshop with the Rural Opportunity Institute from December 11-15, 2017. Vichi helped to coordinate this week-long workshop with four community organizations (Project Momentum, Michael’s Angels Girls Club, Northeast Carolina Prep School, and the Boys and Girls Club of the Tar River Region). The teams received a combined $80,000 in additional funding to continue prototyping their innovative program ideas. Check out some of the action shots below.

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Now that we have a story submission section in our updated beta, teens are sharing their own stories about puberty, bullying, and relationships. Here is an example story that was submitted via our app:

My best friend at the time and her boyfriend had been arguing for a while and they kept breaking up and getting back together. I knew she didn’t even like him anymore, she was in love with someone else. I comforted the ex and we started dating. I really liked him but she started drama and said I was being a douche by dating him. She constantly puts him down and it’s not really fair for him and it’s not true about half the things she’s saying. She made all of our friends choose sides; me or her. I lost most of my friends and that really sucked. I haven’t yet decided what I want to do. It’s been about a year since it started and I’m not even with that guy anymore but we haven’t talked about it because she thinks she did nothing wrong. She’s yet to try to solve it, and I’m not going to approach her if she thinks she’s in the right. -- Female, 14

This past week, our Real Talk team was featured in Yahoo Lifestyle. In the new year, we will continue working with teens across the country to learn as much as we can from them. Please let us know (by emailing Liz at liz@myhealthed.org) if you have any teens we should include in our pilot testing. Happy holidays, y'all!

Cheers,

Liz, Vichi & Cristina

Liz Chen
Access to sex ed makes an excellent holiday gift ;-)

Hello Real Talk community,

We hope that you had a great Thanksgiving holiday! We celebrated in New York, Massachusetts and D.C. and can’t believe that we’re only weeks away from the winter holidays. In the coming months, our goal is to bring Real Talk to 5000 teens in the counties across America with the least access to sex ed by Valentine’s Day 2018. And we’re ready to start now!

As we approach #GivingTuesday, we ask that you check out our updated website.

In November, we launched several app updates to our Real Talk beta app (download here). The updates make the beta faster and you can now submit your own story and share the app with friends. Hundreds of teens from over 22 states and more than 11 countries have accessed our app and their feedback continues to help us improve the app experience. In particular, we want to thank Deborah Levine, Andy Milne, and Laura Steenburgen for working with us to reach teens through their organizations and schools in the past few weeks. Do you have a group of teens who you think would be interested in trying out Real Talk as part of our pilot study? Please email Liz at liz@myhealthed.org for more information.

Since our last blog post, our Real Talk team has also been featured in the 2018 Forbes 30 Under 30 list (in the Social Entrepreneurs category), The Daily Tar Heel, The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy’s blog, and VICE Broadly.

In the coming weeks, we will work with teens from near and far to learn as much as we can from them before the holiday season. Please let us know (by emailing Liz at liz@myhealthed.org) if you have any teens we should include in our pilot testing!

Cheers,

Liz, Vichi & Cristina

Liz ChenComment
"Guys have breast buds too..." and a request for pilot study teens

Heyo Real Talk community,

The past month has passed quickly and we’re excited to share updates from our Fast Forward Demo Days, our workshop at the American School Health Association annual conference, and a few radio highlights.

On September 26th and 27th, we unveiled our beta version of Real Talk to attendees at Fast Forward’s Demo Days in San Francisco and Redwood City. Google.org, thanks for being a new Real Talk supporter! While in the Bay Area, Cristina also demoed our app for abc 7 news and Vichi delivered our three-minute pitch...twice (check out her pitch here).

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On September 30th, Real Talk was featured on NPR’s Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me! segment, highlighting our use of emojis and how we make parents’ lives easier. Then, on October 2nd, Liz and Vichi recorded a radio interview with YOUR HEALTH ® that aired this past weekend about the release of our beta app.

Later in October, Liz and Cristina traveled to St. Louis, MO to present at the annual American School Health Association (ASHA) conference where we connected with health educators, school nurses, school administrators, health department officials, and nonprofit leaders. Workshop attendees tried Real Talk for themselves and then were asked to complete the following sample activity for teens that they could use in a classroom setting:

Instructions: In the Real Talk app, search for “breast buds” and “bra”. Read the stories that come up and click on the links that take you to additional resources on the topics. When you have completed this, answer the following questions:

  1. A bra size is made up of numbers and letters. What do the numbers stand for? What do the letters stand for?
  2. What causes gynecomastia? How long does it take for pubertal gynecomastia to go away?

Try it out! While we spend the majority of our time collaborating with middle school students, we welcome feedback from adults like you, so email us at founders@myhealthed.org with questions or comments about our beta app.

In the next few weeks, we plan to release an updated version of our beta app that includes improvements (bug fixes, increased speed through pagination) as well as new features (share the app, submit a story). Over the next few months, we will be conducting controlled pilot tests of our beta app with teens through partner organizations and schools. We want to gather feedback quickly from teens so that we can continue to improve our beta ASAP. Do you have a group of teens who you think would be interested in trying out Real Talk as part of our pilot study? Please email Liz at liz@myhealthed.org for more information.

Again, thank you for your continued support and we will be in touch once our update is available through the App Store!

Cheers,

Liz, Vichi & Cristina

Liz ChenComment
Real Talk Launches in Beta to Increase Teens’ Access to Sex Education Through Text-Based Storytelling

With $400,000 in philanthropic seed funding, Real Talk launches the first ever app for improved middle school sex education through text message-based storytelling

September 26, 2017 (Chapel Hill, N.C.) – Today Real Talk, a mobile app that provides critical sexual health information to middle schoolers through real stories by real teens, launches in Beta on iOS. Real Talk delivers crowdsourced stories about healthy relationships, puberty, and sexual health in a revolutionary format: text message conversations.

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Real Talk launches at a critical time: 37 states do not require medically accurate sex education in schools, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services just cut over $200 million in funding for teen pregnancy prevention, which will result in even fewer sexual health resources available to teens.

Real Talk’s educational, youth-derived stories are reviewed by public health professionals before publishing, and are presented as text message conversations in the app. Teens feel most comfortable learning about sexual health in a private setting - like their phones - and feel better when they know others are going through the same situations. Users can support others in the app through emoji reactions, search for topics relevant to them, and access links to high quality sexual health resources online if they want to learn more.

As an 8th grade student at KIPP Gaston College Prep in Gaston, North Carolina, Demonte Edwards said, “Some people really don’t have the confidence to talk to your parents about it. So this is a good place you can come to to get advice.”

Years of research and hundreds of interviews with middle schoolers informed their strategy. After successfully pilot testing with students in North Carolina, the team is ready to expand through a public beta launch. This will allow more teens to access the app and provide feedback to develop better content and more robust features. Results from this beta launch will help Real Talk hone in on the most important features as they continue building out the product over the next several months.

“Having lived and worked in areas with little to no access to sex education, I’ve seen first hand the impact this has on youth,” says Cristina Leos, a co-founder of Real Talk. “With only 50% of teen mothers receiving a high school diploma by the time they turn 22, this was an issue we couldn’t ignore. Real Talk presents sex education in a way that resonates with middle-school students, by meeting them on their phones and showing them they are not alone.”

Real Talk was founded by a team of women - Cristina Leos, Vichi Jagannathan, and Liz Chen - and to date has been supported by prominent organizations like the Office of Adolescent Health (Grant number: TP2AH000023-02-00), The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the Aetna Foundation, and Fast Forward, with a total of $465,000 in funding. Real Talk’s parent organization, MyHealthEd, Inc., is dedicated to improving youth health education through technology.

For more information, visit www.realtalkapp.com.

About MyHealthEd, Inc. MyHealthEd, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to improving youth health education through technology. MyHealthEd, Inc. was founded in 2016 by Liz Chen, Cristina Leos, and Vichi Jagannathan, in efforts to increase access to sex education in low-income and rural communities. The organization is based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. For more information, visit www.myhealthed.org.

Media Contact: Vichi Jagannathan, Co-Founder Email: founders@realtalkapp.com Phone: (845) 702-6802

Liz ChenComment
Story Preview and Plans for Beta Release

Hello Real Talk community,

As we get ready to release our beta version of Real Talk in the Apple App Store in September (just in time for our Demo Days as part of the Fast Forward accelerator), we’ve been engaging with teens and others in the sex ed world to figure out how sex ed can be improved, especially in a world where technology is readily available. Recently, we were interviewed by POPSUGAR for a piece on how sex ed in schools is failing kids. Real Talk was featured in addition to other great resources like Amaze.org and Sex, Etc. With federal funding cuts to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP), thousands of teens across the country will likely lose access to comprehensive sex ed through normal channels like schools. Now more than ever, there is a need for Real Talk and other digital resources, to reach teens where they’re at -- on their phones.

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Here at MyHealthEd, Inc., we’re committed to elevating the voices of middle school students. We have convened our inaugural Teen Advisory Board for Real Talk with volunteer middle school students who have decision-making power with regards to app design and content. We also collect and curate stories written by real middle school students from around the country. Check out a few of the submitted stories below:

Previous marching season, it was my first season ever marching since I'm a freshman. I made first chair, and this boy that I started out disliking was my rival, since we were both the best. Well, we ended up getting close. We were lowkey a thing, because we'd always hold hands, cuddle, and go everywhere together. He told my sister that he liked me, and that I was one of the only people he'd cry for if I died. I told him how I liked him in December, over Christmas break. He told me that he knows it sucks liking someone and them not liking you back, and then when I told him that I get that he likes someone else he said "How would you know whether I liked you back or not?" I'm not sure if the reaction was healthy or not, but I know it confused me. Even now I still like that boy. We're best friends, and things are still confusing. He gets mad if I call other boys cute and if I walk with other people, and I go over to his house like every other weekend. I just feel clueless, not knowing what we are. -- Male, 13

Well, my period cramps are so severe I have to get medication from the doctor. It makes me break out all along my forehead. i am going through puberty a little later, but for the most part I am on track. Everyone seems so on top of their health and routines and I am DEFINITELY not. The cramps suck because they make me cry but the acne on my forehead makes me extremely self-conscious. I've heard that there are face washes that I'll try to make my skin less oily so imma gonna try that. -- Female, 13

We’ll be working hard in the next month to prepare our beta version of Real Talk for an initial release in September. We look forward to sharing the news when we’re available in the Apple App Store!

Best, Liz, Vichi & Cristina

Liz ChenComment
Real Talk: Welcome to our journey

Hello Real Talk community,

Eighteen months ago, we embarked on a journey to bring high quality comprehensive sex education to middle school students in low-income and rural communities of color across the country. In January 2016, we were named finalists in the Innovation Next accelerator of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. In the months that followed, we gained design thinking skills from IDEO, talked with hundreds of middle school students, and incorporated as a new nonprofit, MyHealthEd, Inc. Now, we are in the midst of developing our Real Talk app. We plan to have our beta released to the Apple App Store later in 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the past year and a half, we have been fortunate to garner support from many partners, including The National Campaign, InnovateHealth Yale, The Aetna Foundation, and Fast Forward. In an effort to streamline communications with our funders, stakeholders, supporters, and users, we have decided to start this blog. Through the blog, we plan to share updates, solicit feedback, and welcome new ideas.

If you are receiving this inaugural blog post, that means that we have crossed paths along this journey or that you have expressed interest in the Real Talk app. Either way, thank you for your support and we look forward to connecting with you soon!

Liz, Vichi & Cristina

Liz Chen