Why Did HHS Eliminate TPP funding?

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program was funded under the Obama administration at about $108 million per year. You may have read that the program has been cut because there has been quite a bit of press around it and outrage at some level. But, the decision to cut the program was actually done for some very sound reasons.

It’s typical after an Administration change to take a look at the impact of the programs being funded by taxpayer dollars. So, for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention program, which spent nearly a billion dollars, it’s important to see if it’s a valuable use of taxpayer dollars as an effective program! In a review of the TPP program, HHS found:

  • 80% of the students who were in TPP Sexual Risk Reduction classes actually fared no better or worse than students who were not in the program
  • Three of the programs, totaling about $20 million, actually increased sexual initiation, teen pregnancy, and oral sex! These are very severe negative effects!

TPP programs were promoted on an “approved” list by the Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) and showcased as model programs that could be implemented with confidence. The OAH website stated, “Evidence-based programs can be expected to produce positive results consistently.”  In good faith, many schools and communities across the country implemented these programs but did not experience the “positive results” promised.

And yet, false assertions of success by TPP proponents tout the program as a major contributor to the decline in teen birth rates. However, as HHS leadership notes, the TPP program has reached a mere 1% of the teen population since 2010 and can hardly lay claim to the precipitous drop that has been observed since 1991. Further, a 28% increase in the number of high school students choosing to wait for sex has been documented during this same time period. 

By any measure, common sense would dictate that this program does not deserve the continued support of hard earned tax dollars. As President Obama said in his 2009 inaugural address, ‘The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works – …where the answer is no, programs will end.’ ”

For TPP, the answer is clearly no.

United States Department of Health and Human Services; The Office of Adolescent Health. (2015, February 25)

Office of Adolescent Health (2016) Summary of findings from the TPP program Grantees (FY2010-2014). Washington, DC: HHS.(2016). Special issue of American Journal of Public Health explores impacts of Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. American Journal of Public Health: September 2016. 106 (S1):S9-S15.

CDC. (2016). Youth Online: High School YRBS 2015.

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