Planned Parenthood Peer Advocates tackle negative body image in community project

Story by Zoe Schlaak
Associate Sports Editor

Photo by Sophie Yeung
Staff Photographer

The Planned Parenthood Peer Advocates promote positive body image through policy presentations to medical professionals and by facilitating inclusive student discussions, all as part of a community project that spans from February to April 2021. 

Juniors Sofia Alva, Amber Chen, and Sadie Metcalfe are SPHS’ three peer advocates, who work together with other high schoolers in the San Gabriel Valley to coordinate a project each year to advance reproductive rights. The group selected body image — how a person thinks or feels about their body — as the focus of its yearlong project.

“This year a lot of students are having a really hard time with their body especially on Zoom and with the coronavirus. The overuse of social media has [also] contributed to a lot of body image insecurities,” Metcalfe said. “So we wanted to address that this year because having a positive body image directly correlates to a healthy relationship with your body whether that be mentally, physically, [or] sexually. ”  

The advocates are separated into two different groups for the project: policy and peer-to-peer discussion. Chen and Metcalfe work in the policy group to present to various community stakeholders, suggesting ways to foster more body-inclusive environments in their professional settings. Two weeks ago, peer advocates met on Zoom with sex-ed teachers and curriculum developers within the L.A. County Office of Education. By the end of March, they plan to speak to a group of medical personnel and the PTA to provide more inclusive approaches to body image at schools, medical visits, and home. 

“We are trying to address systemic fatphobia where it comes into schools, medical offices, and students’ homes, so we are attacking the problem directly at its core,” Metcalfe said.

The peer-to-peer connection part of the project, which Alva is involved with, is reaching out to local schools’ clubs and classes to spread positive body image education. The lessons include the issue’s history, the negative effects of social media, triggers of body-related struggles, and resources on how to improve mindsets about body image. Starting Friday, Mar. 12, they began presenting to various student groups in the greater community such as Pasadena High School’s P.E. and dance classes and Temple City High School’s body image and eating disorder awareness club. 

The peer advocates are a branch of Planned Parenthood, and can be reached on their website. Applications for the two-year positions are currently open. 

Presentations to students, medical professionals, educators, and parents about body image will continue into April.

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