Adolescent pregnancy is a complex issue that requires a community-wide solution. Anyone who influences young people—or cares about their health and futures—can play a role in preventing teen pregnancy.
The Alliance believes youth need three things to be able to prevent pregnancy: access to information, access to contraception, and hope for a bright future.
Access to information
Young people need and deserve age-appropriate, medically accurate comprehensive sexuality education from a non-judgmental perspective. Science-based programs have been proven effective at providing youth with the skills they need to reduce sexually risky behaviors. Teens need information on how to abstain from sex, as well as reasons to postpone, and they respond to honest, open conversations with parents sharing their values about sex. Young people need critical thinking skills to respond to messages about sex in the media.
Access to confidential contraceptive services for sexually active teens
Sexually active teens need confidential sexual health and contraceptive services that are youth-friendly. Services should be provided by staff trained in adolescent health, and clinics should be conveniently located, with office hours that work for teens.
Perception of opportunity and hope for a bright future
When youth are connected to schools, their parents, and other caring adults in the community; have strong aspirations for higher education and other career goals; and believe pregnancy and early parenthood would keep them from their goals, they are less likely to become pregnant.
Is There a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program in My Town?
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health funds evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs in many towns across the state. These programs provide outreach education to schools, community-based organizations, and others. Please visit the DPH website for a list of sites offering teen pregnancy programs.
There are a number of federally-funded programs in Boston, Lynn, Lowell, Springfield, and Holyoke.
Massachusetts’ family planning programs offer free and low-cost teen pregnancy prevention and contraceptive services to youth and adults. To find services in your community, please visit the DPH Family Planning Program.
Check out the Maria Talks website to find confidential, low-cost youth-friendly and GLBT-friendly services near you - all you have to do is enter your zipcode.
Youth development programs, school-based health education, after-school programs, and numerous other services play a role in teen pregnancy prevention by increasing connection between youth and caring adults, encouraging healthy decision-making, and facilitating youth leadership in the community. Are you doing something to prevent teen pregnancy in your town? Let us know!
What Is the Picture of Teen Pregnancy in My Town?
Teen pregnancy data are difficult to obtain for Massachusetts communities, as pregnancies to teens are not reported to the state the way births are. Every 5 years the Guttmacher Institute estimates statewide teen pregnancy rates. You can find the most recent data on teen pregnancy in Massachusetts on Guttmacher’s website.
Many towns and cities have Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data on youth sexual behaviors, which is available from local education departments. If your town does not do the YRBS, you can look at Massachusetts-wide data on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website.
For teen birth rates, look to MassCHIP (Community Health Information Profile), a data resource provided by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Using MassCHIP, you can find data on teen births and STI rates by race/ethnicity, age, year, town, county, and much more.
How to Start a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program
Want to start a program in your community? The Alliance is available to provide technical assistance(TA) to help. For more on our training and TA services please check out this page.
The Alliance strongly recommends you consider using an evidence-based program. These programs can be community, school, or clinic-based, and have been proven effective at changing behaviors that lead to pregnancy and STIs (sexually transmitted infections) using a rigorous research design. It is important to match a potential program with your capacity to implement it, and to the characteristics of the youth you serve. If you can’t find an evidence-based program, the next best choice is to run a promising program. These programs either show some level of effectiveness in changing sexual behaviors, but have not yet been rigorously evaluated, or they contain the 17 characteristics of effective programs.
The Alliance has compiled a list of evidence-based and promising programs. We created this list from national lists of programs, added in a few promising and local programs (such as the Get Real program from Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts). We only included programs that are currently available for purchase and replication.
If you already know the characteristics of the youth you want to serve, you can use our Program Selection Worksheet.
If you are already running a curriculum-based program and want to know if it is promising, you can review it for the 17 characteristics of effective programs using an assessment tool developed by Healthy Teen Network called the Tool to Assess the Characteristics of Effective Sex and STD/HIV Education Programs, which is available for free download or purchase.
You can also use a BDI Logic Model to make sure your program activities line up your program goal. If you’re not familiar with BDI Logic Models, visit ETR Associates and take their free online BDI Logic Model course. Download our BDI Logic Model template to get started on developing your own.
For more information and lists of evidence-based programs, please visit these sites:
- National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy - Searchable database of evidence-based interventions for teen pregnancy prevention
- Advocates for Youth - Science & Sucess
- U.S. Office of Adolescent Health Effective Programs List - List of 28 evidence-based programs eligible for federal funding in 2010
- DEBI website of effective HIV prevention programs
Evidence-Based Clinical Services
The Alliance strongly recommends you consider implementing evidence-based “youth friendly” clinical services. Through rigorous research and evaluation, these practices and policies have been proven effective at increasing the number of teens utilizing sexual and reproductive health services and highly reliable contraceptive methods.
The CDC has compiled a list of evidence-based clinical practices for “teen friendly” adolescent reproductive health care. This list can be used to support and guide health center improvement efforts using best practices related to access, processes for the delivery of care, utilization of evidence-based clinical recommendations, cost, confidentiality, supportive infrastructure, and the health care delivery environment.
For more information on best practices and policies for adolescent sexual and reproductive health, please visit these sites:
- Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine - Clinical Care Resources and Guidelines
- Region 8 Family Planning Training Center - The Male Reproductive Health Compendium
- The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists – Adolescent Health Care
- Healthy Teens Initiative - A project of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene with Cicatelli Associates Inc.
Who to Include in Teen Pregnancy Prevention Efforts?
The Alliance strongly promotes a community-based comprehensive approach to teen pregnancy prevention. We encourage providers to work together to strengthen linkages between community-based agencies, youth-serving clinics, parents, faith-based organizations, schools, and the community at large. Listed below are some of the providers who work in the field of teen pregnancy and/or play a role in teen pregnancy prevention in many communities. Including these providers can help form a successful community-based teen pregnancy prevention initiative.
- School-Based Health Centers
- Family Planning Agencies
- Family Medicine doctors
- Other private healthcare providers
- School-based health educators
- Community-based organizations
- Youth programs
- Providers working with teen parents
No matter what program you run, we strongly encourage you to evaluate your efforts. You don’t have to be a professional evaluator to do evaluation! Evaluation can require just a little of your time and yield a wealth of information that can help you revise your program the next time you implement it, assess whether or not youth are learning what you want them to, and help prove the worth of your program to your funders and other stakeholders. The Free Management Library has a guide to outcomes-based evaluation for nonprofits with very limited resources.