By Erica Freese,
MPH 18′, Family and Child Health-Global Concentration
There are many reasons to be optimistic about the health of our teens, but recent funding cuts threaten future progress. The teen birthrate has steadily declined over the last 20 years and is at an all-time low. Much of this improvement comes from the coordinated national effort to increase pregnancy prevention programs and services addressing the high teen birthrate. The Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health and the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program were created in 2010 to support the implementation of scientifically based programs to reduce the rates of unintended teen pregnancies. Since then, there has been an astonishing 40 percent decrease in the national teen birthrate.
Unfortunately, the Trump Administration quietly cut funding totaling $213.6 million from 81 institutions involved with TPP. Letters to the grantees in July warned that their project periods would end June 30, 2018, three years into a five-year grant cycle. At least two Arizona programs will be affected by the funding cuts: Collective Steps for Youth in Maricopa County and Mobilizing for Positive Futures in Pima County. Cutting funding partway through research projects means the data will remain incomplete and thus invalid because there will be no funds to collect additional data or analyze data they already have.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) identified teen pregnancy as a “Winnable Battle,” meaning that effective strategies can lead to a large-scale impact on teen health. Sadly, without effective research and programs, teens and their families will not get the necessary education and assistance to win the battle. Combined efforts and support on a national scale help delay the start of sexual intercourse, increase availability and use of contraception and contribute to the decline in both teen birth rates and infant mortality.
Eighty-five percent of American adults surveyed supported continued funding for TPP. Our federal government should reflect that overwhelming position. As a nation, it is our responsibility to help ensure teens make informed decisions about their sexual health. Programs such as TPP are vital to protecting and improving the health of teens and deserve the full support of the administration.
Erica Freese is an intern at the Arizona Family Health Partnership. She is a graduate student in the College of Public Health at the University of Arizona.