KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Abstinence-Only Program Shows Success In Reducing Teen Sex

"An experimental abstinence-only program without a moralistic tone can delay teens from having sex, a provocative study found," The Associated Press reports. "Billed as the first rigorous research to show long-term success with an abstinence-only approach, the study differed from traditional programs that have lost federal and state support in recent years." The classes did not focus on a message of saving sex until marriage or "disparage condom use." Instead, the classes "involved assignments to help sixth- and seventh graders see the drawbacks to sexual activity at their age." The study divided the students into four groups. One group received eight abstinence-only classes, another group had general healthy behavior instructions and the other two groups had either safe-sex classes or a curriculum that mixed abstinence and safe sex content. Researchers surveyed the students again two years later and found that about one-third of those who had the abstinence-only classes said they had engaged in sex compared to about half of the students from the other three classes (Tanner, 2/1).

The Washington Post: "The research, published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine, comes amid intense debate over how to reduce sexual activity, pregnancies, births and sexually transmitted diseases among children and teenagers. After falling for more than a decade, the numbers of births, pregnancies and STDs among U.S. teens have begun increasing." The study gained praise even from longtime critics of abstinence-only programs and the White House took note also. "The Obama administration eliminated more than $170 million in annual federal funding targeted at abstinence programs after a series of reports concluded that the approach was ineffective. ... Based on the findings, Obama administration officials said programs like the one evaluated in the study could be eligible for federal funding," although an HHS official said funding decisions can't be made solely on the basis of  one study (Stein, 2/2).

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