San Antonio public health advocate receives national public health award

Tags: award, public health, realini, aafp, advocacy

San Antonio public health advocate
receives national public health award

Janet P. Realini, M.D., M.P.H., a family physician from San Antonio, was awarded the 2008 Public Health Award by the American Academy of Family Physicians at its annual meeting in San Diego. AAFP’s Public Health Award recognizes individuals who are making extraordinary contributions to the health of the American public. Realini was awarded the TAFP Public Health Award in 2007.

Current president of the non-profit Healthy Futures, Realini has dedicated herself to empowering the young people of San Antonio to make informed, healthy decisions. She developed the Healthy Futures Alliance, a community coalition devoted to reducing teen and unplanned pregnancy in San Antonio and Texas. Realini says she is grateful for her background in family medicine, “with its exposure to all ages, to behavioral as well as physical health, and to understanding systems.”

Realini says she can still remember the first pregnant teen she saw when she was a resident at the University of Texas Health Science Center Family Medicine Residency Program in San Antonio. She recalls being “taken aback” by the difficult situation the teen and her family faced.

“Since then, I have come to understand that teen pregnancy is complex, and the answers involve more than medications and counseling,” Realini continues. “It is not just about girls, and it is not just about sex. Young people, both males and females, need good information about abstinence and birth control. But they also need reasons to postpone pregnancy—goals and dreams, and a sense of a bright future for themselves, and they need lots of caring adults in their lives.”

Her efforts focusing on teen pregnancy prevention and sexual education have had a significant impact in her community. Bexar County has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the nation, but during her years with the San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, these rates dropped more than 20 percent. Here she founded Project WORTH, or Working on Real Teen Health, which is an outreach program emphasizing abstinence, parent communication and healthy youth development.

Realini is the author of BIG DECISIONSTM, an educational curriculum for junior high and high school students that promotes abstinence as a teen’s healthiest choice while also providing important information for teens who become sexually active. Each year, these programs educate thousands of youths and their parents. In 2007, Project WORTH reached more than 6,400 teens.

Realini received her medical degree from the University of California in San Francisco and her master’s in public health from the University of Texas School of Public Health.