HHS To Target Teen Pregnancy

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"No more high-school dances... there, my work here is done"

The Department of Health and Human Services announced on Friday that a $10 million research collaboration was aimed at the teenage pregnancy prevention and sexual risk avoidance.

The project would be focusing on the data-driven answers to a number of research questions about the teen pregnancy. Researchers plan to fully focus on how best to communicate with these teens about sex and the risks it presents with itself, including the methods are through community conversations and over social media platforms. The project is intended to contribute hugely to the department’s goal of serving the health of America’s young people.

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health (OASH) and Administration for Children and Families (ACF) would partner up with Mathematica Policy Research and RTI International, the two nonpartisan research firms with which the department was already collaborating with. Research will be distributed over eight different initiatives, and allocating the money that is already appropriated to the HHS’s Office of Adolescent Health, a senior HHS spokesperson said.

A separate project, which was also announced on Thursday, would act in the supplemental capacity to identify, test, and replicate the ways to improve the teen pregnancy preventions as a part of their teen health improvement generally. That same project would be in collaboration with the MITRE Corporation, a federally funded research and development center.

This move signals the strong administration support for the teen pregnancy prevention in spite of the past concerns. HHS has also attracted some criticism in July when it had cut $213.6 million in funding for the Obama-era Teenage Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program. The program was first rolled out in 2010 and was meant to support programs that apparently used evidence-based approaches to reduce the teen pregnancy prevention.

However, an evaluation of the TPP program’s success found that almost 73 percent of reporting projects supported by it had no or almost negative impacts on the teens involved with them. Negative effects included an imminent increase in the probability of starting to have sex, increased probability of unprotected sex, and even an increased probability of pregnancy.

Because of these underwhelming results, an August press release from the HHS explained, and also because of the $800 million price tag, the department had recommended defunding the program and has paused it while it reevaluated its own efficacy.

Even with the lower rates of teen sex and pregnancies, HHS’s research would still be very relevant, as the department intends to take what the spokesperson has described as a more “holistic” approach towards learning about the factors that may cause and are caused by the teenage pregnancy.