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4 million fewer babies!
Declines in all 50 states
No differences among race or ethnicity!
Taxpayers saved $12 billion!

Such headlines were the talk of the the public health world over the past week since the CDC released its latest report on teen birth rates. The report showed a surprising and positive result: both teen birth and abortion rates are on the decline in a very big way. These declines were seen across all states, races, and ethnicities.

The results feel almost too good to be true. Not only are fewer babies being born to teen parents, there are simply fewer teens getting pregnant to begin with. The feeling is fueled by the fact that no one can pinpoint exactly why such dramatic decreases are reported. As Vox summarizes so well:

Researchers have lots of theories that range from major changes in the economic climate to minor changes to contraceptive use. But none of them is completely satisfying; all of them leave the decline in the teen birth rate a question without an answer. Source

These theories look at factors like the recession, increased use of long-acting reversible contraceptives, and improvements in sex education. Other sources give credit to MTV’s reality shows such as 16 and Pregnant. Such shows are linked with increases in conversations about sex and contraception and may also serve as a “precautionary tale.”

No one theory can explain it all. For example, the recession cannot explain why teen birth rates specifically dropped so much faster than the overall birth rate. Just as the sex education theory cannot be universally applied as many school districts still teach abstinence only education. Most likely, it is some combination of all of the above.

Other factors which may have influenced the decline include:

  1. Better outreach to teens via “new” communication methods such as texting and social media.
  2. Healthcare reform that made it easier to access contraception.
  3. The natural spread of information from peers receiving comprehensive sex education to those who did not.
  4. A better understanding of the causes and benefits of teen pregnancy, as well as a more intersectional perspective, that informed programming and outreach.

While the magic formula can’t be fully defined, what we know is that public health organizations have gotten creative in their approaches to pregnancy prevention. Rather than solely try to figure out “how this happened,” the field must continue trying new things, monitoring the outcomes, and meeting teens where they are. Understanding and respecting the past is vital, but in today’s ever-changing world, its equally as important to continue moving forward and recognize that what worked over the past several years may or may not be effective going forward.

Other Sexual health News this Week

Intimacy a Strong Motivator for PrEP HIV Prevention (News from Brown)

Group Wants to Help Professors Fight Against Sexual Assault on Campus (Inside Higher Ed)

Pima County Seeing Increase in One Sexually Transmitted Disease (Tuscon News Now)

State, Federal Law Protects Gender Identity (Asbury Park Press)

Latest Ruling Overturning Same-Sex Marriage Ban Makes Indiana Governor a Party to Suit (IndyStar) Meanwhile, in Virgina, the Supreme Court temporary blocked the start of same-sex ceremonies. (Wall Street Journal)

Lesbians are Having More Orgasms than Straight Women (Huffington Post)

Important Dates

The following conference proposals are due in September. Click on each title for more information and to submit.

Nuestras Voces (our voices) National Bilingual Sexual Assault Conference, August 29

Southern College Health Association Conference 2015, September 1

American College Health Association 2015 Annual Meeting, September 15

Wyoming Sexual Assault Summit XIV: Start by Believing, September 19

The following conferences take place in September. Click on each title for more information and to register.

Catalyst Con, September 11-14, Los Angeles, CA Say hi to staff writer Kait Scalisi who is presenting on two panels: “Sex, Dating, Kink, and the ‘C’ Word,” and “How to Be a Sex-Positive Warrior in Public Health.”

Widener University’s Sexuality, Intimacy, & Aging Conference, September 19-20, Chester, PA Check out Kait’s session, “Sexual Health and Pleasure in Cancer Survivorship.”

Reproductive Health 2014, September 18-20, Charlotte, NC