CONTACT: MARY GERAGHTY KENYON
300 Plaza Centre One
Iowa City IA 52242
(319) 384-0011; fax (319) 384-0024
Release: Dec. 19, 2002
Professors say Iowa teen pregnancy prevention programs
University of Iowa researchers report that teen pregnancy
rates continue to drop in a majority of Iowa counties served by community-based
teen pregnancy prevention programs. Edward Saunders and Miriam Landsman,
professors in the UI School of Social Work, evaluated 18 agencies that received
funds from the Iowa Department of Human Services for teen pregnancy prevention
programs. Half of those agencies were able to show a decrease in the teen
pregnancy rates in the counties they served and an additional four programs
maintained the gains made in prior years with no increase in teen birth rates.
Among the remaining five programs, rates of teen births within the counties
they serve increased only slightly.
"An examination of trends in adolescent pregnancy rates shows that
rates have, in general, showed steady declines across Iowa," Saunders
and Landsman write in their report.
This is the second year that the evaluation of the community-based prevention
programs used census data and Vital Records data from the Iowa Department
of Public Health to document the impact of the programs. The 18 agencies
evaluated by the research team serve 53 Iowa counties. The evaluation also
used information from the youth who have been reached by the prevention programs
and information from other community leaders to document program successes.
"The main focus of these prevention programs is to reach out to the
entire community to spread the abstinence and teen pregnancy prevention messages," Saunders
A total of 67,341 youth were exposed to activities of the community-based
programs. These youth were generally reached through the media campaigns
in each community or at community events such as health fairs. A much smaller
number of youth were reached through specific adolescent pregnancy prevention
programs in their schools.
Many of the prevention programs used Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Month
(May) to develop specific community-wide programs. Some additional activities
included creating newsletters for schools and industries, providing inserts
for church bulletins, circulating agency newsletters, writing letters to
the editor, distributing palm cards and educational pamphlets at health fairs,
promoting the Tele-Friend phone line, enlisting private physicians to answer
student-athletes questions about sex, hosting a radio talk show by teen leaders,
using electronic signs, requesting mayoral proclamations, working with teen
peer educators to create radio ads created, hosting legislative information
sessions and breakfasts, and distributing tuxedo slips during prom season.
"It is important that youth have many different avenues in which to
hear the abstinence and pregnancy prevention message in their communities,
including their youth organizations like the Y, 4-H, Boy Scouts and Girl
Scouts, their churches, their health clinics, businesses that serve them
and in their schools," Saunders said. "Our report shows that considerable
creativity is used by the grantees to promote adolescent pregnancy prevention
The prevention programs that are offered in the schools obtained evaluation
results from almost 13,000 students. The highest evaluation scores among
the students were associated with new knowledge that students obtained as
a result of the prevention curriculum, a higher level of self esteem as a
result of program participation, and an appreciation for how a pregnancy
would affect their future goals.
When the prevention programs were asked what made their programs successful
in the past year, they pointed to such examples as "support from public
health agencies, community groups, youth service organizations and organizations
dealing with adjudicated youth," "membership in the pregnancy prevention
consortium broadened and now includes individuals from the faith community,
medical field and service organizations," "collaborative efforts
with other agencies, emphasis on rural outreach, and articles in rural papers," and "strong
school and parental support for the new curriculum."
In addition to providing prevention programs within their communities and
schools, the agencies funded by the Department of Human Services grant also
offered educational and health services to pregnant and parenting adolescents
in their counties. Saunders and Landsman note that state budget cuts led
to reduced funding for many social service agencies that serve pregnant and
parenting youth in Iowa.
"These cuts affect (the agencies') abilities to offer as many services
as they would like to offer," they write. "Without the multifaceted
support that these programs offer to at-risk adolescent mothers and fathers,
their children would likely remain at risk for complications at birth, child
abuse and neglect, foster care placement, and a lifetime of socioeconomic
The study was conducted by staff of the National Resource Center on Family-Centered
Practice, which is part of the UI School of Social Work. In addition to Saunders
and Landsman, research assistants Judith McRoberts and Nancy Graff worked
on the project. Copies of the full report, "A cross-site evaluation
of adolescent pregnancy prevention, intervention and community programs in
Iowa, 2001-2002," can be obtained from Jo Lerberg with the Iowa Department
of Human Services at (515) 281-4207.
The pregnancy-prevention programs evaluated in this study served the following
Iowa counties: Adair, Allamakee, Audubon, Benton, Black Hawk, Boone, Bremer,
Buchanan, Butler, Carroll, Cedar, Cerro Gordo, Clarke, Clayton, Clinton,
Dallas, Decatur, Dubuque, Fayette, Floyd, Franklin, Fremont, Grundy, Guthrie,
Hamilton, Hancock, Hardin, Howard, Humboldt, Iowa, Johnson, Jones, Kussuth,
Linn, Louisa, Lucas, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Mitchell, Muscatine, Page,
Polk, Ringgold, Taylor, Wapello, Warren, Washington, Wayne, Winnebago, Winneshiek,
Woodbury, Worth, and Wright. For contact information for specific county
programs, call Lerberg at (515) 281-4207.