Primary Sources: Monitoring, Measuring and Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy

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Teen couple listening to an iPod.

The latest research on preventing pregnancy among adolescents examines trends in the teen birth rate, suggests ways to involve the community in measuring those trends and other risky behaviors and looks at effective methods for providing reproductive health services to young people. (Publications discussed here do not necessarily reflect the views of NCFY, the Family and Youth Services Bureau, or the Administration for Children and Families).

The nagging question of adolescent birth rates. Why, after declining for almost a decade and a half, did the teen birth rate rise in 2006 and 2007? That is the question addressed by the authors of a new Guttmacher Institute study, Changing Behavioral Risk for Pregnancy among High School Students in the United States, 1991-2007 (PDF), published in the July issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health. To answer it, they used data from theYouth Risk Behavior Survey, an ongoing national study that looks at risky behavior, including sexual activity, that may damage the health of youth and young adults. The Guttmacher researchers looked at the risky behaviors of young women in grades 9–12 and estimated their "behavioral risk" for becoming pregnant. The estimate was based on the young women's sexual activity, the contraceptive method they used and the effectiveness of that method in preventing pregnancy. The authors found no change in adolescent sexual activity between 2003 and 2007. They write, "[D]eclining contraceptive use may be the primary determinant of the 2006 increase in birth. Additional years of data are needed to fully understand this increase."

What health problems most affect adolescents near you? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently came out with a series of publications on the Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, which produces the national YRBS. The latest installment of the series, A Guide to Conducting Your Own Youth Risk Behavior Survey (PDF), takes community leaders through the steps of conducting a local youth risk behavior survey (without technical or financial support from the CDC). Local surveys can be conducted to identify young people's rates of smoking, drinking, using drugs, having unprotected sex that may lead to unintended pregnancy, and engaging in other potentially harmful activities. The authors outline a list of questions that community leaders should answer before launching a survey, including whom to survey, whose permission is needed to survey youth, how to analyze the data and how to report and share the results.

Adolescent pregnancy interventions on the ground. In the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy's What Helps in Providing Contraceptive Services for Teens (PDF) (2009), the authors examine research into the types of programs that help prevent teen pregnancy. They place the most effective programs in one of three categories: (1) freestanding clinics, such as teen health clinics run by health departments, Planned Parenthood affiliates, and nonprofits; (2) clinics in or near a school; and (3) programs in which adolescent "providers" are trained to offer such services as patient intake, counseling, and outreach. The authors found that successful teen clinics give their clients longer appointment times than are standard at clinics for adults, offer individual counseling and educational programs, and have a wide range of reproductive and family health services.

Go to the NCFY literature database for abstracts of these and other publications.

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