Young Women Unleash Their Potential

Life isn't always easy being a young woman in San Francisco. According to "San Francisco Girls: A Snapshot Report, 2009," they face serious health challenges. In the past year, 8.3 percent have skipped school due to safety concerns, 14 percent have attempted suicide, and 9 percent have been assaulted by a boyfriend or girlfriend.

The 2012 Young Women's Health & Leadership Summit, developed by and for San Francisco high school-aged women, aimed to educate them about these and many other health challenges they may face.

"We feel that women need an opportunity to be together and feel supported,” said Judy Young, assistant director of UCSF's National Center of Excellence in Women's Health (CoE), a co-organizer of the summit.

"Opportunities for them to create something positive are not as widespread as we think they need to be," she said.

Nancy Milliken, MD, director of the CoE and vice dean of the School of Medicine at UCSF, started the summit 12 years ago in partnership with then California State Senator Jackie Speier to empower young women to make informed choices about their health.

A growing body of research suggests that youth are less likely to engage in risky behavior that could negatively impact their health if they feel supported by adults and their peers, are intellectually challenged and held to high expectations, and contribute to their community, according to Milliken.

A Youth Steering Committee, under the guidance of the CoE, selected the activities and speakers for the summit, which opened with speeches by San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Carlos Garcia and Congresswoman Speier.