2011 Changemaker: Candy Hadsall

Chlamydia educator builds awareness of this hidden STD

Candy Hadsall, an RN with the Minnesota Department of Health, is a big believer in teaching people about healthy sexuality. And as part of that belief, she has spearheaded the first statewide action plan to deal with the growing epidemic of chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Young women between 15 and 25 are at the highest risk for chlamydia.

Hadsall, a sexuality educator, has spent much of her career dealing with problems of sexual abuse, assault and harassment.

“Since growing up in the ’60s, I have been very much an advocate for feminist principles and needing to improve the lives of women,” Hadsall said.

Although there were over 15,000 cases of chlamydia in Minnesota in 2010, there has been little funding for screening or preventing the STD, which can cause chronic pelvic pain and/or infertility if not treated.

“I saw that we needed to get the community involved and aware in trying to address this epidemic,” Hadsall said. So she recalled some of her grad school classes in community organizing and got to work.

In December of 2009, Hadsall wrote a grant proposal to the National Chlamydia Coalition with the goal to get funding to create a statewide coalition and hold a one-day summit about the disease.

“Minnesota was only one of 10 projects out of 60 across the nation to get funded. We only received $10,000,” Hadsall said, “but we used that to create a steering committee with some of the key stakeholders in the state, most of whom had already worked with chlamydia [issues] in the past.”

The summit was held on Aug. 3, 2010, in St. Paul and simultaneously broadcast to nine locations across Minnesota with 275 people from a diverse cross section attending. “Volunteers took down the ideas from the summit and met in workgroups over the next few months, creating actionable ideas,” Hadsall said.

Five workgroups met between September 2010 and February 2011. Their results were submitted to the Minnesota Health Department, and Hadsall wrote “The Minnesota Chlamydia Strategy,” using their words.

The plan calls for increased funding for screening, medical provider education, as well as the education of parents, legislators, schools and the community at large. “We see the plan as a living document. As we see what works, we will emphasize that and add to it,” Hadsall said.

“One of the problems is that the majority of people have no idea what chlamydia is,” Hadsall explained. She would like to see everyone screened routinely for the disease, but not all doctors agree with this. “We still have a lot of physicians who don’t think the kids they see have STDs,” Hadsall said.

She said that although rates for chlamydia have tripled in the last 14 years, the funding to screen for it remains stagnant or reduced.

Hadsall said her greatest fear is that people will get caught up in political positions and won’t see the need for funding, and young people will suffer.

“So much shame is attached to being sexual as a young person, even more with STDs,” Hadsall stated. She said 75 percent of women have no symptoms and therefore won’t get screened.

“My real issue is why, in a state that prides itself on its medical care, is there no voice for young women?” asked Hadsall. “Is it acceptable to have 15,000 cases of chlamydia and no one speaks up about it?”

Readers interested in finding out more information or wanting to assist can go to www.health.state.mn.us/mcp and sign up for a mailing list. They can also contact Candy Hadsall at 651-201-4015 or Candy.Hadsall@state.mn.us