Happy New Year faithful Pregnant Pause readers; welcome to 2015.
My dad offered me precious little advice in his lifetime so when he did ladle out counsel I tended to pay attention. One thing he told me was, “if you’re looking backwards you’re looking in the wrong direction.” Indeed. With that wise guidance as our starting point, let’s begin the New Year quickly reviewing the current bidding and moving with all deliberate speed to the future.
Looking backwards for a moment: Gentle reader you already know that teen pregnancy and birth rates are at record lows—there has been significant progress in all 50 states and among all racial/ethnic groups. This national success story began in the early 1990s and has accelerated considerably in recent years. Still, almost one in four young people get pregnant by age 20.
Looking forward: If we are to keep this progress going, what will it take? What do we all need to do to help teens avoid too-early pregnancy and parenthood. Well…who knows…but here are a few modest ideas:
- Integrating pregnancy planning and prevention into other powerful sectors. There are numerous large sectors and programs (many of which receive immense amounts of public funding) that engage and interact with thousands of high risk teens and young adults every day. Although these sectors and programs deal with the consequences of teen and unplanned pregnancy, most do precious little to include pregnancy planning and prevention in their work.
- Prevention and opportunity. The full benefit of postponing childbearing for teens requires not only pregnancy prevention, but also continued, complementary efforts to reduce income inequality, improve education and jobs, encourage personal responsibility, and articulate the importance that children are born to those ready for the lifelong responsibility of being a parent. That is, we must say clearly that in many instances, and especially for the most disadvantaged, just postponing a birth for a few years may not make much of a difference if there is no progress on other fronts simultaneously (schools, employment, etc.). Reducing teen pregnancy is necessary but may not be sufficient for achieving better lifetime results.
- Low maintenance birth control. LARCs may well be the best contraceptive option for many teens—the American Academy of Pediatrics calls it “first line” contraception for adolescents— a perspective that requires continuing work to encourage providers and teens both to select this option first.
- Putting what works to work. Communities must increasingly choose evidence-based programs to help reduce teen pregnancy. No more programs designed at the kitchen table!
- Sex education for the 21st century. We should also proceed with developing good online sex ed for teens 17 and under, especially for communities that, for whatever reason, do not have good evidence-based sex ed in their schools.
- Parents, parents, parents. We must continue engaging parents and other significant adults who have such a major and lasting influence on children and younger teens.
- Narrowing the focus of prevention. Emphasis on 18-19 year olds, and with those groups with particularly high rates of teen pregnancy such as those aging out of the foster care system.
Bill Albert is the Chief Program Officer of The National Campaign. As Chief Program Officer, Bill is responsible for overall program planning and development, and for tracking program progress. In addition, Bill provides oversight to the Campaign’s media outreach and communication strategies, as well as the writing, editing, design, and production of Campaign’s numerous publications and materials. In addition, he oversees the Campaign’s popular, award-winning websites, the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, the organization’s work with new media, and the Campaign’s marketing efforts.
Before his work with The National Campaign, Bill spent 12 years working in television news, most recently as the Managing Editor at Fox Television News in Washington, DC. His responsibilities included managing the editorial content of two daily news broadcasts, assigning, editing, and writing stories for air, conducting interviews, and overseeing the work of reporters and electronic news gathering crews.
Bill received his degree in Communications at American University and resides in Kensington, Maryland with his wife, Carol. His perfect 21-year-old son, Harrison The Boy Wonder, is a senior at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD to its friends).