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.