News Release

Introducing ICON, Michigan's new health services & life skills app for sexual & gender minority youth.

January 14, 2016 from the University of Michigan School of Public Health

The Center for Sexuality and Health Disparities (SexLab), based in the schools of Nursing and Public Health at the University of Michigan, has launched an innovative online resource aimed at linking sexual and gender minority youth to services in southeast Michigan. Funded by a grant from the Herb Ritts Foundation, the new app – called iCON – provides a database of information on health and social services that are available to youth throughout the region.

The idea behind iCON is simple: many sexual and gender minority youth either don’t know what services are available to them, or worry about experiencing stigma and discrimination if they attempt to use services. iCON solves this problem by 1) providing a database of LGBT-welcoming services that can be searched and tailored to a user’s individual needs, and 2) offering life-skill-building educational modules.

“Young gay and bisexual men and transgender women face a number of barriers to getting the services they need. Some don’t know where to look for help, and others assume that they will be turned away or discriminated against. iCON aims to solve this problem by providing an easy-to-use and searchable database of local resources,” says Rob Stephenson, MSc, PhD, Professor of Health Behavior and Biological Sciences at U-M School of Nursing and one of the principal investigators for iCON. “But iCON isn’t just about sex and HIV: iCON includes services for all areas of young people’s lives, including education and employment."

After a year spent compiling information and resources into a searchable online database and pilot-testing the application, iCON was officially launched in December 2015. iCON implements a tailored approach to allowing young people to find the services that are right for them. Users can choose from 16 life-skills modules – including education, legal advice, social activities and transportation. Each topic allows users to read information, find local services, and set goals to make changes in their life.

iCON is currently being tested on a sample of 500 young gay and bisexual men and transgender women in southeast Michigan. If effective, iCON will be expanded to other regions of the country, with the aim of developing a centralized system that lists all available services in a single, easy-to-navigate system so that service providers can make referrals and individuals can directly access services.

“Our aim is to empower sexual and gender-minority youth to find the services they need and enable them to make positive changes in their lives,” explains Jose Bauermeister, MPH, PhD, Associate Professor of Health Education and Behavior at U-M School of Public Health, and also a principal investigator for iCON. “By empowering change we hope to allow young men to be able to reduce their vulnerability to HIV or to seek the care they need.”

The Herb Ritts Foundation supports HIV/AIDS research and organizations that provide assistance and care for individuals with HIV and AIDS. It is equally important to the foundation to advocate for continued awareness of AIDS and its devastating impact on all continents, with an emphasis on finding a cure.

Related Links:

Contact: Terri Mellow, Senior Media Strategist
Phone: (734) 764-8094