This week, New York City's Health + Hospitals network debuted a new emoji sex ed campaign on Facebook and Instagram. The New York Times reported that eggplant and peach emojis will pop up on local Facebook and Instagram feeds, targeting users between the ages of 12 and 21, with the message: "Need to talk to someone about 'it'?"
"We wanted to talk to kids in language they would understand." Ann Ormsby, editor at Health + Hospitals Corporation, said in a phone interview with Mic.
Richard Zapata, the outreach and education manager for population health, said teen participants in local focus groups suggested emoji messages were the best way to get their attention. "They were like, 'This is it. This is the way we're talking,'" Zapata told The New York Times. For example, a monkey emoji with its hands over its mouth is the campaign's symbol for confidential access to emergency contraception.
Doctors and teens really do need to talk about sex, if recent statistics about youth sexual health are any indication. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 62% of sexually active teens in New York didn't use condoms during their last sexual encounter. Thanks in part to the prevalence of unprotected teen sex, New York state is listed among the nation's top 20 states with the highest rate of gonorrhea infections.
In 2013, the NYC Department of Health reported that the city has an annual average of 17,000 teen mothers, in part because teens don't know how to access confidential reproductive health services. That's why it's so important that doctors are learning how to speak in the sext-ual language of emojis.
So now the new emoji campaign aims to encourage people under 22 to access the city's public health resources, like birth control and HIV testing. If a cartoon monkey finally gets young people's attention, it could be a game changer.