From our Executive Director, Mary Anne Mosack:
Like a breath of fresh air introduced into a long enclosed space, a new funding opportunity has been released from the Office of Adolescent Health(OAH) bringing into view a more balanced approach to sex education. The new Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) funding announcement invites programs that use either risk avoidance (primary prevention) or a risk reduction (secondary prevention) approach to apply. The new guidance, accompanying this funding, offers a compelling focus on the strong body of research supporting what youth need to avoid risk, including sexual risk. Programs are required to identify and enhance the evidenced-based protective factors we know youth need to help them truly thrive.
While information about puberty, reproductive anatomy, sex,contraceptive efficacy and disease transmission remain, all programs must communicate that teen sex is a risk behavior and insure programmatic elements are included to help move youth away from risk. Certainly our epidemic rate of STDs, the majority of which are among young people ages 15-24, according to the CDC, is just one disturbing fact that attests to the need for such communication. So, with a view toward moving youth toward optimal health and thriving, the protective factors underscored in this guidance call for the need to address the possible broader life impacts of teen sexual risk on emotional health, academic achievement, socioeconomic success, and the ability to form healthy relationships among other important considerations. Sex is always about more than sex.
This holistic approach puts sex education into a context that goes beyond the mere mechanics of sex to the development of internal and external assets that help move individuals along a continuum toward positive youth development. Decidedly challenged is the view that increasing contraception use alone constitutes programmatic success. By requiring all programs to work to move youth away from sexual risk, this new guidance attempts to empower youth for optimal health and life success. Ascend welcomes the opportunity this new funding affords to do just that.