Access to publicly funded family planning services decreases adolescent pregnancies

In the United States, adolescent pregnancy has long been a concern because of disproportionate negative consequences for teenage mothers and their children. Despite overall declines in teenage pregnancies and births over the past 20 years, the US rates remain significantly higher compared with other developed countries – underscoring the need for effective strategies to prevent teen pregnancy.

Researchers with the UCSF Bixby Center recently examined such an effort in California, in which publicly funded family planning services were available to adolescents through the Medicaid and its family planning expansion program, Family PACT. By accessing information from a range of state health surveys, claims data and statistical files, researchers were able to examine the association between adolescent births and access to these family planning services.

They found that increased access to family planning services was significantly associated with a lower adolescent birth rate. Efforts to reduce adolescent births, specifically in counties that had persistently high rates, will be critical to achieving a healthy future for California and the nation overall. The publicly funded family planning program in California plays a crucial role in helping adolescents avoid accidental pregnancies, and continued funding for this program is important for the state. Family PACT has already served as a model for other states in designing their family planning programs; its innovative services for adolescents are another key aspect of its success.