‘California CapitolWeek’ Features Discussion of Pregnancy Prevention Programs Aimed at Teen Boys
Teen pregnancy rate remains a "billion dollar problem" in California, with the second-highest rate nationwide, "California CapitolWeek" reported last week on its weekly television broadcast. The report was part of a special teen pregnancy edition featuring a roundtable discussion with state lawmakers and representatives from advocacy groups on pregnancy prevention programs aimed at teen boys. "California CapitolWeek" reported that over the next four years, 80,000 California teenage girls will give birth. According to Dr. Freya Sonenstein of the Urban Institute, targeting pregnancy prevention efforts at young men is especially necessary because boys are "highly likely" to engage in sexual activity at young ages and to not use contraception. Sonenstein said, "At the moment there are hardly any resources devoted to pregnancy prevention services for young men. The situation is improving, but there is very little on the ground."
The program also reported that California Assembly member Herb Wesson (D-Culver City) has sponsored a bill (AB 470) that would expand the state Department of Health Services' Male Involvement Program, which was established in the mid-1990s to reduce teen pregnancy by promoting primary prevention skills and motivation in adolescent boys and young men. The bill would also require the state Office of Family Planning to contract with "qualified public or private not-for-profit providers for expansion of the program." Wesson said, "Teenage pregnancy affects the entire state. It affects our educational system, our health care system, our welfare system, and our criminal justice system." Wesson added that although the state initiated programs in 1995 and 1996 with a focus on delaying the onset of sexual activity and preventing teen pregnancy, "one of the flaws is that we have not spent the time and effort on educating young men." According to Wesson, last year the state received 70 applications for teen pregnancy prevention programs aimed at young men, but could only fund 25. Hoping that his bill will increase the available program funding, Wesson said, "Unfortunately, we as guys tend to be behind the curve compared to our female counterparts. We need to talk to boys when they are 12 and 13."
Norma Munroe of the California Department of Education said that the state currently has 37 school-community partnerships that reach 200,000 students at 450 schools statewide. Munroe said that a successful program with messages about teen pregnancy is "not just about giving information, but also changing attitudes and perception of norms." Joseph Ford of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California said that the organization's educational programs stress that a pregnancy is "a teen pregnancy for both of you" and inform young men about child support and differing pay scales with or without a high school diploma. When asked how programs targeting boys differ from those aimed at girls, Ford said that male-centered programs are designed to deconstruct the societal message that boys "should be sexual and promiscuous." Munroe added that character development programs stressing concepts such as respect, trust, and responsibility for both sexes begin in second and third grade and create a foundation for future sexual education knowledge and decision-making skills. Assembly member Keith Richman (R-Northridge), the only physician in the state Legislature, agreed that "it is very important that young people get educated, and that the education starts early, not only about pregnancy, but also about unprotected sex and the health consequences that come along with that" (Crowley, "California CapitolWeek," 6/15). To view an excerpt from this program, see California Healthline's Broadcast Spotlight.