NATIONAL. Why the Trump administration is cutting teen pregnancy prevention funding. (CNN)

By Jacqueline Howard

The Office of Adolescent Health's Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program currently funds 84 grants to reduce teen pregnancy across clinics, schools and communities, by implementing and evaluating prevention programs and supporting technology- and program-based approaches, according to the office's website. Their end date is now June 30.

Members of the Big Cities Health Coalition, a coalition of health officials from the 28 largest cities in the US, wrote a joint letter to Price last month urging him to reconsider the decision to cut the project period and funds.

The letter indicated that teen birth rates in the US dropped to a record low last year, following a long-term trend, and the letter suggested that reducing funding for teen prevention programs might reverse that trend.

"Cutting TPPP funding and shortening the project period will not only reverse historic gains made in the US in reducing teen pregnancy rates, but also make it difficult to truly understand what practices are most effective in our communities across the nation," the letter said.

Patty Hayes, director of public health for Seattle and King County, said she has seen the teen prevention programs have a positive impact in her community.

"We have been so successful in King County with our teen pregnancy rates reducing by 55%" since 2008, said Hayes, who also signed the Big Cities Health Coalition letter.

"If something works, you invest in it," she said. "We need for our community to respect science, to move forward with this and to make sure that we are not moving backwards. ... I'm very wound up about this."

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NATIONAL. Pregnancy Prevention Groups Scramble After Cuts. (U.S. News)

By Gabrielle Levy

The Hill reported Friday that the decision last month to pull the plug two years early on five-year grants made as part of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program came in some cases with no notice and no explanation. The Department of Health and Human Services informed 81 organizations participating in the program that their grants, totaling $213 million, would end in June 2018. Officials said in a statement the decision was due to "very weak evidence of positive impact of these programs."

The paper also talked to Dr. Leana Wen, health commissioner in Baltimore, where a program to decrease the teen birth rate will lose $3.5 million.

"We don't have another way to fill this deficit. This will leave a huge hole in our ability to deliver health education," Wen said.

Read more.

NATIONAL.Trump administration cuts short teen pregnancy prevention program funding. (CBS News)

By Kathryn Watson

The Department of Health and Human Services is cutting off grants for teen pregnancy prevention programs across the country, leaving the groups that receive the grants -- and Democratic members of Congress -- perplexed. 

"These notices of shortened project periods are highly unusual, especially given that Congress has yet to act on FY 2018 appropriations," a July 21 letter from 37 Democratic senators reads. "This action is short-sighted and puts at risk the health and well-being of women and our most vulnerable youth who depend on the evidenced-based work that TPP Program grantees are doing across the nation."

"It would be fanciful at best to say these programs were solely responsible for the decline, of course that's not the case," Albert said. 

But he believes the funding has contributed to the continuing downward trend. 

"Some of that leaves you scratching your head wondering, why mess with success?" Albert said.

Read more.

SEATTLE. King County Health Officials Protest Early End Of Sex Ed Grant (KNKX)

By Ed Ronco

The public health department is in year three of a five-year grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The $5 million pays for sexual health education curriculum, teacher training, and efforts to reduce teen pregnancy. It also funds research into how well the curriculum is working.

“One key principle for our work in public health is that we act based on science and evidence,” said Patty Hayes, director of public health in King County. “We need the evidence that a new system or rule or intervention is necessary – and that it’s effective.”

King County and other urban public health agencies have filed a formal protest with the Trump administration. They’re organized by the Big Cities Health Coalition, which calls the early termination of the grant “highly disruptive to work already underway.”

Read more.

NATIONAL. Local Health Officials Sound Alarm on Trump Efforts to Defund Teen Pregnancy Prevention. (Route Fifty)

By Quinn Libson

Last month, the federal Office of Adolescent Health, which is overseen by the Department of Health and Human Services, informed researchers, local health workers and educators that the grant funding for 81 teen pregnancy prevention programs which was intended to last for five years would be cut short two years early—a decision that took place outside the normal budgeting process.

The city of Baltimore, as The Washington Postrecently reported, is one of the places affected by the funding cut. Health programs run by the city will lose out on $3.5 million dollars set to support classes in anatomy and physiology as well as counseling on issues related to sex for 20,000 teens. The money would have also provided training for 115 teachers. While Baltimore has made progress on reducing teen births—the rate dropped by nearly a third from 2009 to 2013—there’s still much work to be done. The teen pregnancy rate in Baltimore remains significantly higher than the national average.

King County, Washington, which includes Seattle, is like many of the other grant recipients. The $5 million in funding there pays for more than curriculum, programming and teacher training. The federal funding is also spent on figuring out just how well all of those efforts are working.

“One key principle for our work in public health is that we act based on science and evidence,” Patty Hayes, director of public health in King County told KNKX public radio. “We need the evidence that a new system or rule or intervention is necessary—and that it’s effective.” The county is currently in the process of collecting efficacy data on FLASH, a curriculum developed by the county and implemented in schools throughout the South and the Midwest. As many as 4,000 students are affected.

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NATIONAL. Big city health officials decry Trump administration’s cuts to teen pregnancy prevention programs (The Washington Post)

By Ariana Eunjung Cha

The federal funding was curtailed last month without explanation and without warning: $214 million for teen pregnancy prevention programs across the country.

The city of Baltimore lost $3.5 million, money that Health Commissioner Leana Wen said had supported classes in anatomy and physiology and counseling in social and emotional issues related to sex for 20,000 teens, plus training for 115 teachers. She worries what the loss of funds will mean for local teen pregnancy rates, which already are twice as high as the state's and much higher than the U.S. average.

“This is a central health issue for thousands of vulnerable teens,” she said. “What is going to be the downstream effect on society?”

Wen, a physician, was one of 20 health officials from the nation's largest cities who joined Wednesday to denounce the Trump administration for the cuts and who warned that the consequences could be severe. The teen pregnancy prevention program is among many reproductive health initiatives targeted in recent months. Federal officials have also tried to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, family planning clinics abroad and grants for scientific research in the field.

Experts have credited better access to contraception and more convenient contraception for teens as well as their increased abstinence. Fewer teens are having sex as a gradual decades-long decline continues, with the latest surveys finding that about 42 percent of girls and about 44 percent of boys ages 15 to 19 report that they have had sex.

Patty Hayes, health commissioner for Seattle & King County in Washington state, signed the letter urging that the prevention grants be restored. Even if you believe in abstinence education, she said Wednesday, science shows that “teaching abstinence alongside birth control has increased abstinence.”

Read more.

NATIONAL. Programs that Fight Teenage Pregnancy Are at Risk of Being Cut (The New York Times)

By Pam Belluck

Health commissioners from 20 large cities are protesting, writing to Tom Price, the health and human services secretary, that cutting funding will not only reverse historic gains made in the U.S. in reducing teen pregnancy rates, but also make it difficult to truly understand what practices are most effective.

Read more.

NATIONAL. Teen Pregnancy Program Surprised by Trump Cuts (NewsMax)

By Theodore Bunker

President Donald Trump's administration has issued widespread funding cuts at short notice, including one to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention program.

"There was no communication about the reason. The notice of the award just stated that instead of a five-year grant, it is now a three year grant," Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen told The Hill.

The city's health department administered one of the TPP-funded initiatives with the aim of bringing down the teen birth rate, which is three times the national average. The program loses $3.5 million over two years without the grant, leaving 20,000 students without access to reproductive health education and related services.

"We don't have another way to fill this deficit. This will leave a huge hole in our ability to deliver health education," she added.

The health commissioners from 20 cities wrote to HHS secretary Tom Price in July, warning that these cuts "will not only reverse historic gains made in the U.S. in reducing teen pregnancy rates, but also make it difficult to truly understand what practices are most effective.

Read more.

NATIONAL. Here’s How Trump’s Budget Will Specifically Hurt Girls (Romper)

By Tiffany Thomas

The Trump administration has already started cutting back funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, The New York Times reported. If the president’s budget is enacted as written, the program could go away entirely, putting a full stop to proving which prevention strategies actually help teen girls avoid unintended pregnancy, according to that report.

So far, more than 20 health commissioners from major cities have protested Trump’s budget cuts. But in a Congress stacked with conservatives wedded to the widely disproven notion that abstinence-only education works for teens — with other, major agency reductions at stake — there’s more than enough reason to worry that girls will be worse off if this budget passes. If enacted, Trump’s plan could leave millions of teen girls who need comprehensive sex education and access to birth control in a far worse position than they deserve to be. And it could certainly affect the ability of young girls growing up now to get the sex education they need as they age.

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NATIONAL. Daily News Roundup: Groups Fighting Teen Pregnancy Set to Lose Millions (The Chronicle of Philanthropy)

Some 80 organizations that provide education about abstinence, contraception, and sexually transmitted diseases would lose federal funding next year under the White House budget plan, which calls for eliminating the Obama administration’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, writes The New York Times. 

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NATIONAL. Critics decry Trump gutting teen pregnancy prevention grants (The Washington Times)

By Tom Howell Jr.

The Trump administration is cutting short a batch of Teen Pregnancy Prevention grants, angering big-city health department chiefs who said Wednesday they will no longer be able to figure out what’s working to cut pregnancy rates.

For instance, Seattle and King County schools in Washington wanted to know whether their sexed curriculum, known as FLASH, caused students to delay having sex or whether those who did used condoms or other forms of birth control.

“Now the money will be yanked from us midstream,” said Patty Hayes, the region’s public health director. “We won’t have the funding to gather the final data and analyze the results.”

Baltimore stands to lose $3.5 million, and Health Commissioner Leana Wen said city official

Senate Democrats last month told HHS Secretary Thomas Price that his decision to shorten the grant period unilaterally was “highly unusual,” particularly since Congress hasn’t acted on funding bills for fiscal 2018.

Read More.

NATIONAL. Trump administration looks to cut funds for pregnancy prevention programs (Becker's Hospital Review)

By Kelly Gooch

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program, started under former President Barack Obama, would be cut in the White House's proposed budget. TPPP funds projects that don't solely focus on abstinence, but also teach about contraception and sexually transmitted diseases, according to the report.

But not everyone is on board. In a July letter to HHS Secretary Tom Price, MD, health commissioners from large U.S. cities said cutting funding for teen pregnancy prevention programs "will end important prevention programs and research projects already underway."

"As you well know, many of these awards now slated to end two years early are funding rigorous — and needed — evaluation research meant to insure that programs in local communities across the country are as effective as they can possibly be and identify best, innovative practices for moving forward," the letter reads.

The health commissioners added the U.S. has seen a significant decline in teen pregnancy — to about 20.3 births per 1,000 15-to-19-year-old girls last year — but said the rate "is still substantially higher than other industrialized nations. Additionally, racial/ethnic and geographic disparities in teen birth rates persist, many of which occur in our jurisdictions."

Read more.

NATIONAL. Abrupt Trump cuts to teen pregnancy program surprise groups (The Hill)

By Jessie Hellman

The Trump administration has abruptly cut short grant programs aimed at ending teen pregnancy, leaving the institutions that receive the funds scrambling for answers. 

An office within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) notified 81 institutions across the U.S. that the five-year grants they were awarded would end two years sooner than planned.

The TPPP has funded initiatives in 39 states, including one run by the Baltimore City Health Department.

“There was no communication about the reason. The notice of the award just stated that instead of a five-year grant, it is now a three-year grant,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen.

The Big Cities Health Coalition, which is made up of health officials from 28 major cities, called on Price on Wednesday to reconsider the decision to cut the funds and shorten the project period.

“Ending what was intended to be five year TPPP grants two years early is highly disruptive to ongoing work in localities across the country. These cuts will negatively affect the lives of young people currently participating in these programs, and will mean fewer project jobs, fewer trained professionals, and reduced community partnerships,” the officials wrote in a letter to Price.

“Cutting TPPP funding and shortening the project period will not only reverse historic gains made in the U.S. in reducing teen pregnancy rates, but also make it difficult to truly understand what practices are most effective in our communities across the nation.” 

Read more.

NATIONAL. Science Says: Pregnant or trying? Don’t let Zika guard down (Associated Press)


WASHINGTON (AP) — The Zika virus may not seem as big a threat as last summer but don’t let your guard down — especially if you’re pregnant or trying to be.

While cases of the birth defect-causing virus have dropped sharply from last year’s peak in parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, Zika hasn’t disappeared from the region and remains a potential threat.

It’s hard to predict how much risk people face in locales with smoldering infection, or if cases might spike again. For now, pregnant women still are being urged not to travel to a country or area with even a few reported cases of Zika, because the consequences can be disastrous for a fetus’ brain ...

Back in the U.S., public health advocates worry that $1.1 billion Congress approved last year to study and fight Zika is running out — including funding for a birth defects surveillance program intended to monitor affected babies’ development and connect them to health services.

That surveillance is critical for knowing what’s going on, said Dr. Oscar Alleyne of the National Association of County and City Health Officials. “Otherwise we’re flying blind.”

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NATIONAL. NYC health commissioner Mary Bassett and Chicago health commissioner Julie Morita (Pulse Check)

The nation heard from President Donald Trump on Wednesday, who again urged Republicans to repeal the ACA. Congress continues to loudly battle over the law, and governors have spoken out too.

But one voice that’s been largely ignored: Local health leaders. And on this episode of PULSE CHECK, two big city health commissioners — New York City commissioner Mary Bassett and Chicago commissioner Julie Morita — join POLITICO’s Dan Diamond to explain how Republicans’ plan would hit their cities, why they prioritize "health" over "health care" and how they're addressing persistent social inequality. They also walk through what it’s like to be a city health commissioner — a role that both describe as their dream job.

Listen here.

HOUSTON. Houston Braces for Another Brush With the Peril of Zika (The New York Times)

HOUSTON — With 4.5 million people in a hot, muggy metropolis built atop a bayou, America’s fourth-largest city, Houston, is a perfect target for the mosquito-borne Zika virus. But it may be better prepared than any other urban center to stop an outbreak...

The $1.1 billion in Zika funding that Congress passed last year runs out in September. The Trump administration seeks to cut the C.D.C. budget by $1.2 billion, to what the agency had 20 years ago.

Many county health departments depend on C.D.C. grants, and they have already been “eviscerated,” said Claude Jacob, president of the health officials’ association. Some 43,000 public health jobs were cut over the last decade.

“We need a contingency fund for epidemics,” said Dr. Paul Jarris, chief medical officer of the March of Dimes, which fights for Zika funding because of the danger to infants. “If we have a hurricane, FEMA doesn’t have to wait for months until Congress responds. Not having a fund just doesn’t make sense.”

Money is not the only obstacle to turning back the virus.

If there is no intense epidemic somewhere in the Western Hemisphere this summer, it will be hard to test any candidate Zika vaccine, said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

For a valid study, between 2,500 and 5,000 people — ideally in several locations — must get either a vaccine or a placebo.

“If we get a big, big outbreak, we can get an answer about the vaccine’s efficacy by mid-2018,” he said. “If we don’t, it may take till 2020 or 2021.”

Read more. 

NEW YORK CITY. How the Senate's Obamacare repeal bill would wallop the urban poor (NY Daily News)

If there was any hope that Senate Republicans could bring some sanity into the national discussion around the future of our health care system, such hope completely vanished on Thursday. Like the House's health care bill, the Senate's proposal is nothing less than an all-out attack on public health and our public hospital system, and its consequences will be devastating for New York City and the country.

FLORIDA. State prepares defenses for possible Zika return (The Villages Daily Sun)

Florida officials say they are better prepared this year if the Zika virus reappears, but much of the country expects funding allocated after the last outbreak to run out around the peak of the mosquito season.

Meanwhile, agencies and health departments say the need for research and aid grows.

“We need to continue to explore the full life cycle of the Zika virus, develop a vaccine, learn about other therapeutic methods — it goes on,” said Dr. Paul Jarris, chief medical officer and senior vice president of Mission Impact for the March of Dimes. “There’s so much left to do, and Zika is not going away.”

In 2015, few people worried about the Zika virus in the United States. Only about 60 infections were reported in travelers returning from affected areas.

But the mosquito-bourne illness raised concern in Brazil. Multiple babies were born with smaller than average heads, a birth defect linked to the virus, which was shown to attack a growing baby’s brain while still in the womb.

Only a year later, Zika had a strong hold on the nation.

PHILADELPHIA. Mayor wants all landlords with pre-1978 housing to prove rentals are safe from lead. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)

By Barbara Laker & Wendy Ruderman 

The current law, passed in 2012, requires landlords to certify their rentals as lead-safe only if they rent to families with children who are 6 and younger.

But landlords largely have ignored the law, and the city has failed to hold them to account, an Inquirer and Daily News investigation found last October as part of the “Toxic City” series.

Shortly thereafter, Kenney formed the Philadelphia Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Advisory Group to find ways to reduce the numbers of children exposed to lead.

On Tuesday, Kenney and other city officials released the group’s report, which also recommended that the city financially help owners remove lead paint from their homes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says public health and pediatricians should intervene when children have a blood lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter. The Health Department investigates only when a child hits a level of 10.

Last year, 341 children tested had a blood lead level above 10 — a new low, City Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said.

“We’ve made an awful lot of progress in lead over the years, but we still have far too many children who are being exposed to lead,” Farley said Tuesday. “This report represents a shift towards primary prevention, preventing kids from having exposure to lead in the first place, rather than just testing them and finding out later on.”

The city said it had struggled to enforce the current law because it was difficult to discern which rentals had young children. With an all-inclusive law, the city could deny a rental license to those landlords who don’t certify their rentals as lead-safe.

Read more.