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New Federal Funding for Teen Pregnancy Prevention

July 2, 2010

There has been a flurry of federal grant writing across Minnesota this summer. And that’s a good thing. For the first time, the federal government is investing in programs to prevent teen pregnancy. In late 2009 and early 2010, the federal government passed two new significant funding opportunities for teen pregnancy prevention. The first was part of the 2010 fiscal year appropriations bill, creating a funding stream of $114.5 million available in competitive grants. The second stream of funding was created in the passage of the health care reform law, and authorizes $75 million in the form of grants to states.

As a savvy reader I’m sure you noticed that I said the funding is for “teen pregnancy prevention” and not “comprehensive sex education”. And you might be wondering why. The federal government guidelines call for implementation of “evidence based programs” as part of a teen pregnancy prevention initiative. While we had hoped for more comprehensive language – for programs and education to promote adolescent sexual health – this is where the investment will begin.

Evidence based programs are programs that have been evaluated and shown to help youth achieve one or more of the following outcomes:

1. wait longer to have sex
2. have fewer sexual partners
3. use condoms and contraception more often and more effectively
4. have less sex

All are important outcomes that have significant public health benefits including fewer unintended pregnancies, STIs & HIV. And if we’re interested in extending program evaluation beyond these 4 outcomes (and I know we are), we have work to do. While these outcomes seem insufficient as the measures of a sexually healthy culture, they do have a few benefits. 1) They are objective and measurable. And 2) they are consistent with our current cultural frame of disease prevention through a focus on individual behavior.

But is the only goal of sex education to prevent disease and danger? There’s something beautiful here that we’re missing, right? I hear from sex educators all the time that the evidence based programs that will be funded with federal dollars don’t do enough, go far enough, or include comprehensive enough content. And they are right. And it’s also true that broad implementation of these programs is an effective and important first step. It’s our job to make sure that decision makers – our federal senators/representatives – know that we support moving towards a day when all programs include options for truly comprehensive components… like sexual violence prevention, all pregnancy options, sexual pleasure… Comment on this blog and tell us what else you think should be included.

Be a part of keeping us moving forward!
If you want to be a part of making sure we continue to move forward in ensuring that youth get the comprehensive sex education they want and need, what can you do?
1) Vote! Ask candidates where they stand on the issues that matter to you. Did you know that the Minnesota primary election has been moved to August 10th? If you know you are going to be out of town you can vote by absentee ballot now! And don’t forget to vote in the General Election on November 2nd! For more information about candidates and resources visit the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website.
2) Become a member of the Coalition for Responsible Sex Ed! We’ll keep you updated and in the loop when it’s time to call your elected officials on both the state and federal level. To become a member visit http://www.coalitionforsexed.org/join.htm

Written by Lorie Alveshere, Policy Director for the Minnesota Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Parenting.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. cizzarie schomberg permalink
    February 5, 2011 9:07 pm

    I am a Nurse Prac. grad student who works as a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner and also teaches the Our Whole Lives (OWLs- a comprehensive sexuality education program)for my faith community. As part of my grad work, we are looking at different issues to discuss with our legislators. I am interested in looking at sexual violence, but not sure if there are any active or upcoming pieces of legislation. Does any one have thoughts about what to discuss or push for outside of more comprehensive programs in the schools?
    Thanks
    Cizzarie

    • April 1, 2011 7:31 pm

      We know of a LOT of great work being done! Give us a call and we can let you know 612.871.5100 ext. 13

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