By Lauren Blackmun Elsberry, MPH, CHES
CDC/Office of the Associate Director for Communication
Carla P. White, MPH
Consultant - Health Communications
CDC/Division of Reproductive Health
As part of the president’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (TPPI), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of Reproductive Health is partnering with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS’s) Office of Public Health and Science to reduce teenage pregnancy and address disparities in teen pregnancy/birth rates. The program’s purpose is to demonstrate the effectiveness of innovative, multi-component, community-wide initiatives in reducing teen pregnancy and births in communities with the highest rates, focusing on African American and Latino/Hispanic youth aged 15-19 years. The program goals are:
1. To reduce teen pregnancy and birth rates in the funded communities
2. To increase youths’ access to evidence-based and evidence-informed teen pregnancy prevention program
3. To increase links between teen pregnancy prevention programming and clinical services
4. To educate stakeholders about evidence-based and evidence-informed strategies to reduce teen pregnancy.
Substantial TPPI funds were recently awarded to nine community organizations (including two Title X agencies) and five national organizations to reduce teen pregnancy.
To launch the program, the CDC grantees came together for an orientation in January at CDC’s Global Communications Center to begin planning their community-wide initiatives. Approximately 100 people attended. CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden addressed the grantees as the keynote speaker. Although teen pregnancy rates have been declining, over 1,100 teen girls still give birth every day in the United States. Evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs can help lessen the economic, personal and social costs and inequalities that are a part of the vicious teen pregnancy cycle. Frieden challenged the group “to drastically reduce teen pregnancy in your area…show it is possible to decrease teen pregnancy not by 5 percent or 10 percent but by 25, 30, 40, 50 percent,’” in other words “think big.”
Frieden charged the grantees to empower teens to take control of their futures by taking care of their sexual health. To accomplish this, the grantees must develop active, sustainable partnerships, engaging multiple levels of community organizations, clinical services and youth. He urged the grantees to think realistically and strategically about the groups they are targeting: becoming familiar with the number of teens in target communities, rates of sexual activity and contraceptive use, schools teens attend and levels of community involvement. He urged grantees to work with school-based and school-linked programs, and to find ways to reach teens that are not in school and may be at higher risk of pregnancy. Reducing teen pregnancy not only requires providing access to services, but ensuring a youth-friendly atmosphere that allows for open dialog between providers, parents and teens.
Frieden emphasized the importance of “going to scale”: seeking out groups or schools where intervention is most needed, conducting ongoing interventions, and monitoring those hot spots. “We need at least one of you to show a huge reduction in teen pregnancy, to show that it’s possible, because nothing succeeds like success. Once you succeed in one place you can show the way for others,” he concluded.
When asked by the audience what national strategies could bring programs and agencies together, Frieden responded that sharing our best practices, ideas and strategies can help alleviate planning costs for others, and lead to better use of limited resources for teen pregnancy prevention.
For more information, view CDC’s recently released resource, Vital Signs: Preventing Teen Pregnancy in the US.
For more information contact Alison Spitz in the Division of Reproductive Health or call (770) 488-6233.