Editor’s Note: Update April 26, 2018 A federal judge out of Spokane, Washington, issued a permanent injunction blocking the Department of Health and Human Services from ending five-year teen pregnancy prevention grants two years early in June.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has slashed about $200 million from grants committed to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) Program, affecting programs in some 39 states, according to The Hill. Grants will end June 30, 2018.
In Baltimore, cuts to the program will result in 20,000 fewer students having access to reproductive health education and other services as a result of the funding cuts, according to the city’s health department.
We don’t have another way to fill this deficit. This will leave a huge hole in our ability to deliver health education,” said Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen.
A Question of Impact on Teen Pregnancy Prevention
Little explanation was provided in the letter to grant recipients, but Mark Vafiades, spokesman for HHS, said the program was cut short two years because it’s not showing impact.
The TPP website snapshot of the first cohort, from 2010-2015, showed that nearly half a million youth ages 10-19 were served. Those grantees worked with approximately 4,000 partners and trained more than 6,000 facilitators. TPP evidence-based programs are largely a mix of various modes of education outreach to at-risk youth.
While a snapshot of results for the second cohort would not be available until after the grant was to complete after 2019 funding, HHS has a list of TPP Successful Strategies from more than 20 states. One example from the first TPP cohort, the Champs! program by the Kent School of Social Work at the University of Louisville, showed positive results from using a relationship skills planning tool known as Love Notes. It became the first study to demonstrate that tool’s efficacy. The TPP grant-funded study compared the pregnancy rates of those teens that participated in the program to national and state rates:
- National Teen Pregnancy Rate (2011): 52 per 1,000 females age 15-19
- Kentucky’s Teen Pregnancy Rate (2011): 59 per 1,000 females age 15-19
- Kentucky’s African American Teen Pregnancy Rate (2010): 84 per 1,000 African American females age 15-19
- Pregnancy rate of teens participating in Love Notes: 30 per 1000 females ages 15-19
The Love Notes approach “builds assets and protective factors. It appeals to young people’s aspirations, rather than merely emphasizing what they must avoid,” according to the Dibble Institute.
Funding for TPP Could Be Included in 2018 Budget
The Big Cities Health Coalition, which is made up of health officials from 28 major cities, called on HHS Secretary Tom Price to reconsider the decision.
If Congress appropriates funding to the aborted TPP program in the 2018 budget, the administration can then offer funding to the types of programs it believes will have a greater impact. The Hill report speculated the agency may be more focused on abstinence programs, based on the resumes of its most recent appointees.