Making adolescent pregnancy reductions a winnable public health battle

Pregnancies and births among US adolescents have decreased significantly over the past two decades due to a range of factors, including increased use of birth control and comprehensive sex education. Despite this progress, accidental teen pregnancy remains a public health concern, with racial, socioeconomic and geographic disparities.

Reducing teen pregnancy is a winnable public health battle, but will require innovative thinking and continued persistence. New research from the UCSF Bixby Center outlines six promising strategies that address this challenge:

  • Understand and address the complexity of adolescent lives. Adolescents are constantly navigating multiple environments, including neighborhoods, schools and online, all with different social networks and norms.
  • Expand the provision of quality sexual health education. All adolescents need medically accurate, developmentally appropriate and relevant information to help them successfully make decisions about their sexuality, relationships and sexual health.
  • Engage youth through technology and media. By understanding how media and technology are used by adolescents, we can better harness their potential as tools for improving adolescent sexual health.
  • Increase access to contraceptives and other sexual health services. There are opportunities to build on recent positive trends and continue the declines in adolescent pregnancy.
  • Create tailored interventions for populations with special needs.Speaking with adolescents about their specific needs and using data to identify populations at greater risk can help to tailor interventions to make them more appropriate and responsive.
  • Create a supportive policy environment. Policies at the local, state and federal level impact adolescents’ access to reproductive health information and services, as well as broader life choices and the communities in which they live.

The underlying causes of adolescent childbearing are complex; successful strategies take into account these complexities. The Bixby Center will continue to synthesize research to improve our evidence-based teen pregnancy reduction strategies.