May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, which means TPPP and our members have been busy sharing the good news about teen birth rates and learning together to better support young people. As of 2014, the Missouri teen birth rate was 27.2 births per 1,000 teen girls from 15 to 19. Since 1991, the teen birth rate has declined by 58%. In the past year alone, the decline was 9%, according to The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The CDC released data showing declines in teen birth across the country and a reduction in disparities as well.
Our May Professional Development Meeting on May 13th covered the topic of Supporting Pregnant and Parenting Teens in Developing Healthy Relationships. Guided by Kimberly Broadnax and William Scott from Parents as Teachers National Center, TPPP members discussed the importance of healthy relationships for parenting teens for their own health and for the development of their children. A key message from our presenters was that teens need the opportunity to learn how to navigate relationships on their own terms and they need supportive adults to teach - not preach. Participants were encouraged to think of how to encourage teens as they worked through relationship conflicts by asking questions and listening, rather than providing answers based on personal experience. To further our understanding, we worked through a small group activity where TPPP members considered the challenges relationships with various stakeholders in a teen's life might bring, how to help teens recognize the status of a relationships (supportive/nurturing vs negative/destructive) and how to support teens with any issues they identify in their relationships.
On May 20th, TPPP members gathered for a legislative update and policy forum. We looked at policies at the federal, state and local levels that impact adolescent health. During the time before the Presidential election in November, we do not expect changes at the federal level. However, there is a bill, the Real Education for Healthy Youth Act – REHYA, that has been introduced which would greatly expand comprehensive sexual health education for adolescents by providing grants and training to implement it. At the state level, there were a variety of bills that would have impacted adolescent sexual health, but only one was passed. House Bill 2011 created a budget without $8 million in federal Medicaid funding for federally subsidized family planning services. Instead, Missouri legislators created an entirely new, state-run women’s health program using general revenue funding to circumvent federal Medicaid law and deny a patient’s right to choose Planned Parenthood for their health care. Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed the bill in part, but did not veto the section in question. The implementation of this new women’s health program could impact family planning services to older teens who are eligible for the family planning waiver. At the local level, TPPP works within the current Missouri statute on sexual health education to assist school districts providing medically-accurate sexual ed. This spring the Parkway School District School Board voted 4 to 3 to adopt a new sexuality education framework. TPPP worked with parent and student advocates, as well as the district, to ensure they had materials and resources to meet the needs of Parkway students. This was the conclusion of a 2 year review and revision process by the district. Moving forward, TPPP will continue to work with Missouri districts and advocate improvements to the state statute.
TPPP and other organizations across the country have engaged in dialogue around teen pregnancy prevention and adolescent sexual health on social media throughout the month. If you missed the #Youth360: Moving Beyond Prevention to Holistic Adolescent Sexual & Reproductive Health chat hosted by @HealthyTeen on May 19th, you can view the Storify. You can continue the conversation this month and throughout the year by liking and following TPPP on Facebook and Twitter.