Member to Member

 Member states were asked the following question:

What do you think state MCH programs can do to address the recent rise in teen pregnancy?  


Karen C. Ramstrom, DO, MSPH
Public Health Medical Officer III, California Department of Public Health

Reducing the adolescent birth rate is one of California's highest health priorities. California is doing better than the nation in teen pregnancy prevention because of its commitment to youth development and teen pregnancy prevention programs, family planning services, and comprehensive sexual health education programs.  As the best way to continue to stem the rise in teen pregnancy rates, the California Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health Program and the Office of Family Planning support initiatives that (1) target outreach to teens at high risk of pregnancy, (2) provide comprehensive sex education, and (3) ensure access to family planning, contraception and reproductive health services.  

In addition, developing partnerships among public health, other state agencies, and community-based organizations is a key strategy. The California Adolescent Sexual Health Workgroup is one of these successful public-private partnerships that promote effective adolescent sexual and reproductive health policy and services. Serving 200,000 teens annually, the Community Challenge Grants promote community-based partnerships to develop local teen pregnancy prevention programs and to promote responsible parenting. The Adolescent Family Life Program, serving nearly 20,000 teens annually, links clients to services to promote positive pregnancy outcomes, prevent additional unintended pregnancies, and promote socioeconomic independence through a youth development model.  The Information and Education program provides adolescents with comprehensive pregnancy and sexually transmitted infection (STI) prevention information and education and hyperlinks to clinical health care. This 30-year-old innovative program is community-based and program services are offered in diverse settings such as mainstream and alternative schools, social service agencies, juvenile detention facilities and youth centers. Teens help review, plan, and in some programs, act as peer counselors to deliver information and help support the development of future-oriented youth. Adult programs help support parents and other adults who have responsibility for caring for or serving youth.  In fiscal year 2007 – 2008, programs served approximately 56,483 youth and families through direct, face-to-face interventions.  Family PACT is California's innovative approach to provide comprehensive family planning services to eligible low-income men and women. This clinical program increases access to services by expanding the provider network to include medical providers, pharmacies and laboratories. Approximately 300,000 teens receive services annually. 


Kelly Holland
Public Health Program Manager, Bureau of Family Health, Pennsylvania Department of Health

Whether your state has funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs or not there are still many things you can do to stay active in the area of teen pregnancy prevention. In Pennsylvania, the Department of Health is partnering with the Department of Education, the Pennsylvania Coalition to Prevent Teen Pregnancy (PCPTP), the Allentown Health Bureau and the Bethlehem Health Bureau to provide school administrators/educators with training on what science-based teen pregnancy prevention programs are, why they are important, and how they can be used in a school setting. In addition, the Department of Health is participating in a stakeholders group formed by the PCPTP to discuss how agencies and organizations throughout the Commonwealth can work together to promote the use of science-based teen pregnancy prevention programs. In the current economic climate, it is important to explore all possible partnerships and opportunities to implement or provide information on programs that prevent teen pregnancy. This includes linking with other Department of Health entities that address high risk behaviors such as drug and alcohol prevention, STI prevention programs and HIV prevention programs. Although there may not be funding for a specific program, staying involved and getting the word out about teen pregnancy prevention programs will lead to new partners, new programs and lower teen pregnancy rates. 

South Carolina 

Lucy Gibson
Director, Division of Women and Children's Services
South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control 

In South Carolina, the Title X program is housed within South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control’s (DHEC) MCH Bureau, facilitating seamless collaboration with Title V. Formal and informal partnerships with the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and other youth-serving organizations throughout the state and adoption of appropriate evidence-based practices are two of the most important ways South Carolina works to reduce teen pregnancy rates. Our state has taken advantage of opportunities to apply for funding and technical assistance through programs such as “Moving from Interest to Action” that was co-sponsored by AMCHP and NACCHO. This technical assistance helped South Carolina’s team, consisting of a local community representative and a state and local health department staff member, blend funding to open a teen family planning clinic in an underserved rural location.   

The importance of making data driven decisions cannot be overstated, particularly in the current economic environment. South Carolina has extensive resources for data collection and analysis within DHEC as well as the state’s Office of Research and Statistics. The 2010-2015 MCH Needs Assessment will be a golden opportunity to engage communities and identify factors leading to the recent increases in teen pregnancy rates and craft appropriate intervention strategies.


Joanne Boise, RN, MSPH
Division Director, Child and Adolescent Health, Virginia Dept of Health

MCH programs can be instrumental in addressing the rise in teen pregnancies by going back to the fundamentals of public health practice. We know from a review of our data that the 17 to 19-year-old cohort, and the Hispanic population, represent the bulk of the increases in pregnancies. Over the years we have shared such data with localities so they can focus their interventions to their community needs. We follow the literature to make sure that our teen pregnancy prevention programs use evidence-based or best-practice curricula in addressing risk reduction and avoidance. Most of these programs target substance use, conflict resolution, community service, building self-esteem, and making good choices. Some locations combine funding to provide contraceptive services. And, to prevent unplanned pregnancies in older teens, we know that we need to reach preteens, so our programs may involve youth in middle schools. We also recognize that adolescent health is more than just pregnancy prevention. We promote the use of Bright Futures Guidelines for wellness and anticipatory guidance, and we work with the Medicaid program to promote use of Early Periodic Screening Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) services. Finally, our MCH program partners with colleagues across the state to raise awareness about social inequity, and the impact it has on issues such as teen pregnancy.