Prevention is truly at the heart of SAY San Diego’s approach—and has always been. Notably, the science of prevention has advanced greatly over the years, in our area of social services, just as it has in public health and medicine. One area of emphasis has been reproductive health. Reproductive health is not only a critically important area of well-being for youth, it is one where evidence-based prevention efforts have led our county to join the nation in achieving historically low rates of teen pregnancy. Not long ago, San Diego had teen pregnancy rates that were 72–74 out of every 1000 births, now we are 22 out of every 1000 births—the lowest rate on record (CDC, 2016).
For several years, as a partner to San Diego Youth Services, SAY San Diego has conducted a highly effective teen pregnancy prevention program based on a well-researched approach, Reducing the Risk. This federally supported partnership builds on a continuum of prevention programs that SAY San Diego and other agencies employ to reduce risks and strengthen development assets for young people. The reproductive health and Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program engages young people, ages 13–18, with accurate and up-to-date information about all forms of birth control and STI/HIV prevention, as well as providing them with safe opportunities to develop skills in decision-making, refusal, and delay. Over the 16-week program, teens learn to make healthy decisions, resist peer pressure, and avoid unwanted pregnancies, STDs, and HIV.
In the area of reproductive health, one of the strongest indicators of effective prevention-education is whether parents are engaged in learning and practicing positive habits and behaviors and reinforcing them in their children and teens. Many studies, cited by the CDC and others, demonstrate that decreases in risky teen sexual behavior are influenced greatly by parental knowledge and expectations, as well as by increased engagement between parents and health educators.
We are pleased to highlight a new collaboration between TPP and SAY San Diego’s Community Services for Families (CSF) Program to hold trainings for parents of teenagers on how and why to talk to their teens about sex and reproductive health. Denise, CSF’s Family Support Partner, currently runs parenting groups and has welcomed the additional support. TPP facilitators, Jaclyn and Adriana, cover a variety of topics with parents, including statistics on teen pregnancy and STI/HIV rates, birth control methods, consent, and many other issues that today’s teens face. Parents are especially interested in how to approach the subject of sex with their teenagers, how to engage their teens in the conversation, and proper terminology and age-appropriate language to use. This partnership has created a unique environment for parents to ask questions, get current information, seek advice, and become empowered to speak openly with their kids. Group members with children of all ages are encouraged to attend the training. We are so excited to expand our reach within the community and create a bigger impact in the area of teen sexual health.