Science Takes a Front Seat in Teen Pregnancy Prevention Efforts

In addition to receiving a big boost in funding, teen pregnancy prevention programs are experiencing a shift toward an evidence-based model.

In addition to receiving a big boost in funding, teen pregnancy prevention programs are experiencing a shift toward an evidence-based model.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced it is awarding $155 million to fund comprehensive, evidence-based sex education programs—marking the biggest boost in funding in 14 years. According to a press release, the grants will support the replication of prevention programs that have been shown to be effective through research as well as the testing of new, innovative approaches to combating teen pregnancy.

“Teen pregnancy is a serious national problem and we need to use the best science of what works to address it,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. “This investment will help bring evidence-based initiatives to more communities across the country while also testing new approaches so we can expand our toolkit of effective interventions.”

The HHS Office of Adolescent Health will distribute $100 million of the funding through its Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, while the other $55 million will come from the Personal Responsibility Education Program created under the federal health reform law (PL 111-148).

The new grants mark “a key milestone in the administration’s ongoing overhaul of US teen pregnancy prevention efforts," according to a statement by the Guttmacher Institute. Sarah Brown, CEO of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, said in an online report that the "investment of federal funds could not be more timely," as data indicate that teen pregnancy rates are at a standstill.

According to the HHS, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention program is funded by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2010, and administered by the Office of Adolescent Health. Seventy-five million dollars was awarded to 75 grantees to replicate evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs that have been shown to be effective through rigorous evaluation, and $25 million was awarded to 27 grantees to test innovative strategies.

Of the PREP funding, $45 million was awarded as formula grants to 46 states; the funds must be used for programs that replicate evidence-based pregnancy prevention strategies and incorporate other adult responsibility subjects, such as maintaining healthy relationships, improving communication with parents, and financial literacy. The programs supported by states must incorporate lessons about both abstinence and contraception. The remaining $10 million was awarded competitively to a broad range of grantees to test innovative approaches to reducing teen pregnancy and repeat pregnancy among those under the age of 21.

“These grants address a major problem,” said Sebelius. “Teen pregnancy short-circuits the futures of young parents and their children. It is critical that we work with states and communities to give our young people the tools and information they need to make wise decisions that will ensure their health and success.”

For a full list of grantees by state, click here.

The Affordable Care Act included funding for states to support programs promoting abstinence, and more than $33 million is being issued today for abstinence programs in 29 states and Puerto Rico.

For more on this topic, read the Washington Post article, "HHS ramps up funding to fight teen pregnancy."

Do you support the Obama administration's decision to increase the amount of funds used for pregnancy prevention in teens? What about the shift from programs focused on abstinence education to an evidence-based model?