The National Institute believes that when young people are given the opportunity to advocate for their sexual and reproductive health care and rights, it can lead to a deep sense of empowerment – and combining that empowerment with peer education allows young people to not only teach and learn from one another, but build their self-esteem and leadership skills. As the experts on their own lives, we believe that young people must be included in advocacy and public health initiatives designed to serve their communities. To find out more about our particular work on youth advocacy in states and localities, see our interactive partner map.

TORCH  is a nationally recognized program that combines leadership training and peer sexual and reproductive health education skills for New York City youth. Through an intensive training program, TORCH peer leaders develop leadership skills, knowledge about sexual and reproductive health, and the ability to advocate effectively on their own behalf. They then share their knowledge with other teens by facilitating workshops around New York City. Learn all about TORCH here.
The National Institute has a long history of lifting up the voices of young people advocating for the sexual health information they need, supporting partners across the country—from Memphis to Minneapolis and from the District of Columbia to the Tewa Homelands in New Mexico—who work with youth to advance access to comprehensive sex education.
In 2010, in partnership with NARAL Pro-Choice New York, the National Institute released a report, “If You Expect Us to Make Healthy Decisions, We Need Sex Ed: A Report on Sexuality Education in the New York City Public School System,” providing recommendations for improving sexuality education in New York City based on in-depth interviews and an online survey with New York City youth, teachers, and parents. New York City has since issued a comprehensive sex education mandate.
Access to safe, confidential, and non-judgmental health care is important for all people, but especially for youth seeking reproductive health services. The National Institute supports work to educate providers about how best to serve youth when providing reproductive or sexual health care, as well as the  age-appropriate resources that are available.
For the past several years, the National Institute has partnered with Physicians for Reproductive Health to create standardized patient videos designed to facilitate discussion about how health professionals can best interact with adolescent patients. Featuring teens from the National Institute’s TORCH Program  in the role of the adolescent patients, the videos focus on the unique communication, counseling, and clinical needs of adolescent patients.
The National Institute’s history of bridging the communication gap between adolescents and health care providers includes its development and implementation of the Adolescent Health Care Communication Program (AHCCP) in 2003. Founded on the belief that teenagers who are trained to work directly with health care providers become more empowered, confident, and well-informed health care consumers and that health care providers benefit from exposure to the unique needs and perspectives of their target population, AHCCP workshops are now an integral part of the TORCH program.  In addition, the program has been replicated around the country as a model for helping health care providers communicate effective with their adolescent patients.