Web-based Learning for Girls and Boys in Central America: Promoting Healthy Behaviors, Personal Leadership and Self-Care

Web-based Learning for Girls and Boys in Central America: Promoting Healthy Behaviors, Personal Leadership and Self-Care

San José, Costa RicaManagua, Nicaragua
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$250,000 - $500,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

TSI helps at-risk teens ages 10-24 develop the knowledge, skills and motivation to lead healthy, satisfying lives. The underlying philosophy is one of self-management, self-empowerment and leadership.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Latin America’s adolescent population (10-24 years) makes up 30% of the region’s total population of 148 million people. Six risk behaviors contribute to 75% of adolescent health care costs in Central America (i.e. accidents and violence, use and abuse of tobacco, alcohol and other drugs, risky sexual behaviors, lack of exercise, and poor nutritional habits). These youth risk behaviors also influence future educational and employment opportunities. Public schools and community youth programs do not routinely have the resources to invest in adolescent health promotion education.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

In a public private sector alliance working in partnership with school and community organizations, TeenSmart provides online interactive adolescent health promotion services. The broad goal is to empower self-care and personal leadership to prevent and reduce risky behaviors and promote life skills ,Services are freely available to youth ages 10-24 and include self-assessment surveys with immediate feedback to teens, aggregate reports to schools, virtual consultation, a health dictionary, a community resource directory, forums and chats. E-learning courses are provided through special scholarships. its web-based evaluation monitoring system permits continuous monitoring of use, satisfaction and impact and tracks teens’ knowledge, attitudes and health behaviors to ensure evidenced-based continuous improvement of best practices.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

The model combines three key ingredients: 1. Partnership with an existing youth and family development organization (YFDO) such as a middle or secondary public school or community based organization such as an after school or church based program. The partnering school forms a TeenSmart/Joven Salud Leadership team with representation of a teacher, counselor, computer laboratory technician, parent and student leader who are responsible for the planning, implementation and evaluation of the adolescent health promotion activities and assuring access to computers and the internet. 2. The development and active participation of a volunteer Youth Leadership Club or Committee that is responsible for promotion, recruitment and follow-up with teens and 3. Access to virtual adolescent health promotion and life skills via the website www.jovensalud.net. TeenSmart provides annual initial and follow up training and provides virtual and in-class support to the YFDO and the teens.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

TSI works with YFDO to make health promotion and training available to teens ages 10 to 24. We work with ministries of health, education, technology, private sector organizations and foundations. TSI does not compete but collaborates with YFDO to effectively share limited resources. Through the Internet, we make services available to youth and to YFDO that lack teen health promotion methods. Using the Internet and centralizing health education information and services is a creative and cost effective innovation. Challenges include keeping up with rapid changes in technology, limited access to computers and Internet, and sustainability of a cost sharing model to make services free. No other non-profit in Central America addresses teen health promotion via the Internet in this manner.

Founding Story

A TSI Founder, Cathy Strachan Lindenberg had her "Aha!" moment when she was working as a nurse in a large inner city public hospital. Her responsibility was to care for two young girls in the post-partum unit. One girl was 12 years old, the other 14. The 12-year-old had delivered her first baby and the 14-year-old had delivered her second. There was no father in the picture and both girls had histories of substance abuse. Cathy was shocked and saddened. Sadly, this was her "Aha!" moment. It triggered her concern and interest in learning more about these life altering and often intractable problems and the importance of early prevention. After a decade of interdisciplinary research, with the advent of computers and the Internet, in 2000 she and her colleagues, with 10 nursing students developed a bilingual online health promotion website www.teensmart.net. In 2004, TeenSmart International was founded to make this service readily available to youth.
About You
TeenSmart International
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name

TeenSmart International

Organization Country

, SJ, San José

Country where this project is creating social impact

, MN, Managua

Age of Innovator

Over 34

Gender of Innovator


How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Has the organization received awards or honors? Please tell us about them

Not yet!

The information you provide here will be used to fill in any parts of your profile that have been left blank, such as interests, organization information, and website. No contact information will be made public. Please uncheck here if you do not want this to happen..

How long have you been in operation?

Operating for more than 5 years

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your innovation addresses? Choose up to two


Social Impact
What solution(s) does your initiative address to better the lives of girls and women by leveraging technology? (select all applicable)

Access to technology, Access to education/training, Access to health care, Access to economic opportunity, Policy change/advocacy.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

To date approximately 40 youth and family development organizations are using the services of www.jovensalud.net. More than 11,000 teens have registered on www.jovensalud.net and approximately 150 to 250 teen virtual consultations are responded to each week. Currently, approximately 450 teens are taking e-learning courses, including the 14-module course CRECER para SER, the 7-module GirlSmart Sexuality Course, a 7-module Violence Prevention Course and a 7-module Nutrition Course.
The preliminary findings of the pre- and post- measurement comparisons of the pilot test of the e-learning course CRECER PARA SER among teens ages 14-17 showed pre- and post- test improvements in levels of communication with their parents, less depression, less fighting, and among sexually active teens, greater use of condoms.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

By 2015, in partnership with public and private sector organizations and a cadre of youth leaders, TSI seeks to be one of the region’s leading resources for teen health promotion. Our services will enrich schools and youth development organizations that otherwise would have no access to health promotion materials and methods. We work in Costa Rica and Nicaragua but seek to extend our services throughout the region. We hope to influence public health education policy for youth, have more access to the public school system and a sustainable cost sharing financial model, so our services can continue to be freely available to youth. We seek to demonstrate greater use and impact of these services on teens, tracking the effect of our courses on school attendance, graduation and employment.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

The major barriers which TSI and its partners are hurdling include : 1. generating revenues to sustain and expand these online services throughout Central America; 2, promoting increased access and availability of computers and Internet resources for youth, especially youth in the bottom social and economic 40% of the population primarily served by these online services; and 3. strengthening and broadening public policy to promote the right and access to health education information for all youth especially in the public school and community based arena. TeenSmart is a catalyst in the region and is incrementally managing to overcome these hurdles, growing from having served two YFDO and 167 teens in 2004 to serving 40 YFDO and reaching 11,000 in 2011.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

TSI seeks to expand its interactive, web-based teen health promotion services from Costa Rica and Nicaragua into El Salvador.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Develop collaborative agreement with SUPERATE, a Corporate Social Responsibility initiative for youth education in El Salvador.

Task 2

Conduct collaboratively a needs assessment of local teens served by Superate, ages 10-24.

Task 3

Select and train a leadership team and volunteer youth leaders and develop work plans in the Superate programs.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Conduct screenings of 100 youth in El Salvador to be enrolled in our online courses CRECER para SER, and GIRLSMART

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Screen , enroll and orient high risk youth in e-learning courses.

Task 2

Provide virtual facilitation and in-class reinforcement of learning opportunities.

Task 3

Evaluate user satisfaction and effectiveness of the courses CRECER para SER and GIRLSMART on knowledge and risk behaviors.

Tell us about your partnerships

TSI collaborates with various international public and private sector partners including: government organizations such as the Ministries of Health and Social Security, Public Education, Science and Technology; private sector partners such as nonprofits focused on health and education such as Fundación Omar Dengo (FOD) and Accion Social in Costa Rica, Fundación Uno in Nicaragua, and a conglomerate of private businesses for social responsibility, sponsored by the Asociación de Empresarios para el Desarrollo (AED).These organizations sponsor schools, libraries and community based institutions.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

TeenSmart would like to increase its outreach and marketing capacity, its information technology capabilities as well as its fundraising capabilities. Any support Change maker can provide in these three special areas would be greatly appreciated.