NIH Gives $2.5 Million Grant to University of Arizona to Study Sexual Decision Making Among Teens
Researchers at the University of Arizona have received a $2.5 million NIH grant to study teens' decision making regarding risky sexual behaviors, the Associated Press reports. Each year, three million new cases of STDs are reported among adolescents, and AIDS has become the seventh leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 24. With the aid of the federal grant, UA researchers will begin a five-year study this fall that will survey 1,000 southern Arizona high school adolescents ages 14 to 18 to "determine how decision processes differ for abstinent-versus-sexually active adolescents" and how the decision processes differ for those who engage in unprotected intercourse and intercourse with multiple partners versus those who do not. The study will take special note of previously under-studied Hispanic teens and how they make similar decisions. Valerie Reyna, director of the UA College of Medicine's Informatics and Decision Making Laboratory and principal investigator of the study, said that poor decision making "is a problem that affects many young people. It has consequences that are unhealthy for folks at that age and prevents them from meeting their goals, including their educational goals. There are many young people who are literally dying because they are taking the wrong risks." She added that in the study, researchers will examine "how [teens] perceive risks, how they perceive consequences and how their values and beliefs interact with their decisionmaking." The study will also evaluate the effectiveness of an intervention program designed to reduce risky sexual behaviors (Associated Press, 10/29). Decreasing such behaviors is listed as one of HHS' national health objectives for Healthy People 2010 ( Healthy People 2010, 10/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.