Adolescent sexual health

Teen pregnancy is closely linked with a host of health outcomes, ranging from prenatal care to preterm births. ​There are also substantial public costs associated with adolescent childbearing. Over the past several decades, efforts to improve adolescent sexual health and reduce teen pregnancies have come a long way. The US teen birth rate has fallen by 63% since 1990. Yet over 86,000 girls under age 17 gave birth in 2012, and just 1 percent of sexually experienced teens used the most effective forms of contraception. There is still a long way to go in improving sexual and reproductive health for teens.

What works to prevent teen pregnancy

The Bixby Center has investigated effective teen pregnancy prevention and sexual health programs for several decades. Our research includes a range of issues affecting adolescent reproductive health and pregnancy prevention, including:

The Bixby Center’s expertise in adolescent health has informed state decisions about parental notification for a teen’s abortion. Our research demonstrated that requiring parental notification did not prevent abortion or the need for abortion. Three parental notification ballot measures have been rejected in California, in part due to these findings.

Providing reproductive health care for teens

We monitor and evaluate programs aimed at improving sexual health services for US youth. For example, for more than 15 years we’ve lead the evaluation of California’s publicly funded family planning program, including its impact on adolescent pregnancy rates. We demonstrated the critical value of California’s family planning program in reducing the state’s teen birth rate – once the highest in the nation – to below the national average. We're also providing training, technical assistance and evaluation to ensure California’s teen sex education programs are based on scientific evidence and are taught consistently.

Our researchers are also monitoring the impact of federal health care reform on young adult health. For instance, we are working closely with state health insurance commissioners and others to evaluate efforts to enroll young people in health insurance. We are also investigating the impact of fluctuations in insurance coverage on young adults’ access to reproductive health services.

Working with partners like the UCSF New Generation Health Center, Bixby Center researchers are looking at the most effective ways to deliver reproductive health services to adolescents and youth. Partnering with their dynamic team of providers – including physicians, nurse practitioners, health educators and counselors – we’re examining how reproductive health services, education and counseling affect adolescent sexual health.

A global reach

A new Bixby Center initiative is partnering with international organizations to include adolescent health perspectives in their work. For instance, we're working with the World Bank to examine the impact of issues like PDF icon childhood marriage, PDF icon family planning and PDF icon sexual activity on young women’s health.