Health Care Reform could include Healthy Teen Initiative

As Miriam mentioned in the health care reform roundup, Representative Lois Capps (D-CA) introduced an amendment to the House health care reform bill that would create a Healthy Teen Initiative. Jodi Jacobson at RH Reality Check shares the story of this amendment, the result of work by a coalition of sexual health advocates to expand the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative proposed in the president’s budget. Advocates were concerned by the limited scope of the president’s initiative, which, as I discussed previously, would exclude information about and strategies for preventing the spread of sexuality transmitted diseases.
The Healthy Teen Initiative would authorize $50 million to fund program models that have been proven –

to delay initiation of sex; to decrease number of partners; to reduce teen pregnancy; to reduce sexually transmitted infection rates; or to improve rates of contraceptive use.

Although a wide variety of entities could apply, “including schools and community-based and faith-based organizations,” I hope this new language would make it impossible for abstinence only programs to access these funds.
This initiative is a big improvement over that originally proposed by the president. While the Healthy Teen Initiative is not explicitly about funding only comprehensive sexuality education, it could be an important step in the transition from supporting failed abstinence only programs. Yes, I am still bothered by the inclusion of language that presumes certain forms of teen sexuality should be prevented without concern about whether young people are having sex at a certain age or with a certain number of partners in a way that is personally healthy and consensual. But the need for education about sexually transmitted diseases and contraception is great and this initiative would be an important first step. I am also happy to see this included in health care reform, a symbolic recognition that teen sexuality is a health issue, which has been masked by the focus on religion and morality.
Choice USA, an organization representing the voice of young people in the reproductive justice movement, recently launched a campaign to promote comprehensive sexuality education (full disclosure: I have done some consulting related to this campaign). Executive Director Kierra Johnson said of the Healthy Teen Initiative, “Sex education is preventative health care. The Healthy Teen Initiative is a smart move and the right move to ensure young people have access to information and medical services that can keep them healthy and save their lives. I applaud the Committee’s work to ensure full and comprehensive health care to teens and the millions of young people who are uninsured in this country.”

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  1. Naught
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    I wouldn’t be too optimistic about that bill. The language says that a program only has to pass at least one of the requirements. Abstinence-only programs do delay initiation of sex (a bit) and decrease number of partners (a bit), so they’re eligible for funding.

  2. rustyspoons
    Posted July 27, 2009 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    It seems like a step in the right direction, or at least an improvement over abstinence-only.

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