Keeping the Faith

The best part of my job is getting to work with groups that one wouldn’t normally think of when looking for partners to work on teen and unplanned pregnancy prevention. For instance, most folks wouldn’t think of working with a Greek Lettered Organization on unplanned pregnancy but I get to do that. Another of those groups are faith-based groups and leaders.

When I first came to the Campaign and began working with faith-based organizations, I was apprehensive. My religious experience was that you just didn’t really speak about sex. However, I soon realized that working with faith-based organizations isn’t much different than working with other partners: you have to establish trust, identify common goals, meet people where they are, and be willing to compromise. 

Over the last week I was reminded twice of how much I enjoy working with faith-based groups and how my initial apprehension was unfounded when I presented a workshop at the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy’s 16th Annual Summer Institute and attended a teen pregnancy prevention workshop at Esperanza’s National Hispanic Prayer Breakfast and Conference. My presentation at the Summer Institute focused on discussing the benefits, challenges, and best practices for working with faith-based groups. The attendees were a diverse group of educators, state employees, and those working in teen pregnancy prevention but the group I found to be most engaged were the small group of faith leaders who were in the room. 

Faith leaders openly shared how they wanted to be engaged on this issue, what they thought their churches had to offer on this topic, and how best to do it. They also acknowledged that in spite of their best intentions, they often don’t know how to start this conversation in or that they lacked the knowledge to provide the best information to their congregations. Our discussion during the workshop provided much needed direction and resources to faith-based groups wanting to become involved in teen pregnancy prevention and those wanting to engage with other faith-based groups on this topic.

The Latino faith leaders who attended the teen pregnancy prevention workshop at Esperanza’s conference shared many of the same thoughts as those in South Carolina. They wanted information on how to talk about teen pregnancy prevention as well as information to provide to the parents so they can reinforce the messages in their own home. These faith leaders understood that teen pregnancy has a disproportionate impact on the Latinas who become pregnant and the communities that support them.

My visit to South Carolina and attendance at Esperanza’s conference provided me with a deeper appreciation of the work the Campaign does with faith-based communities and leaders and a deeper understanding of the needs of faith-based groups wanting to engage on this topic.

Authored by: Liany Elba Arroyo

Liany Elba Arroyo is the Senior Director of Health Equity at The National Campaign where she works to ensure an equity lens is applied to the organization’s work.  Previously she had served as the Director of Partnerships where she oversaw the development of programs and the dissemination of messages and resources tailored for the Latino and African American communities. 

Prior to coming to The National Campaign, Liany spent over 13 years working in the government and non-profit sectors developing programs and promoting public policies that aimed to improve the health status of Latino communities across the nation. Most recently, Liany was the Associate Director of the Education and Children’s Policy Project at the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), where she worked on advancing NCLR’s education priorities and policies affecting Latino children and youth. Liany has published several pieces on children and Latino health and has been cited by Spanish and English media, including The New York Times, Newsweek, and Univision.

Originally from Bridgeport, Connecticut, Liany currently resides in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her husband and daughter. She holds a BS in psychology from Wellesley College, an MPH from Columbia University, and is Certified in Public Health.



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