The teenage pregnancy rate in Britain has been cut in half — the lowest rate it has seen since the 1970s — as the result of efforts made by the government to increase the quality of their sex and relationships education programs, as well as better access to contraceptives.
The Teenage Pregnancy Strategy (TPS) was originally introduced by the Labour government as a response to the increasing rates of pregnancy in the country, the majority of which affected teenagers from deprived backgrounds. The recent study is the first to show the long-term effects of the initiative.
The largest decrease among those under the age of 18 was seen in high deprivation areas and those that received the most TPS funding. The conception rate for those between the ages of 15 and 17 dropped from 47 for every to 1,000 women to 23, reports Lucy Clarke-Billings for Newsweek:
Professor Kaye Wellings, of the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "England's under 18 conception rate has fallen to its lowest level since the 1970s. What's more, progress has been made towards halting the cycle of inequality that has long been associated with teenage pregnancy."
Experts believe that one of the main reasons the program has been so successful has to do with the amount of time that was put into it. While efforts were placed into the TPS program for ten years, most other projects go on for no more than three to five years. In addition, they say the comprehensive, multi-agency approach allowed for its success in schools and colleges, with the help of youth workers and social workers.
The program includes a number of important elements such as high-quality sex and relationships education, increased access to contraceptives for youth, and support for young parents, allowing them to participate in education, employment, and training. As a result, young people in the country are being encouraged to take responsibility and become more informed in their decision-making.
Alison Hadley, who led the programme, told The Guardian: "Our strategy demonstrated that effective education programmes and easier access to contraception equips young people to make choices and brings down rates even in deprived areas. Key to success was government commitment, strong coordination between agencies and sufficient time to effect change."
Hadley went on to say that while work on the program continued in the UK, the lessons would be shared throughout the world.
Adam Balen from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (RCOG) and chair of the British Fertility Society (BFS) said the education efforts do not simply push abstinence and discuss the effects of sexually transmitted diseases. Instead, it teaches youth about fertility and when the right time to start a family would be, writes Samantha Finch for The Parent Herald.
Elsewhere, the United States is also seeing a decrease in their pregnancy rates. According to a report from The Miami Herald, conception rates in 2014 among teenagers fell by over 50% of the rate seen in 1991. The decrease is being attributed to a rise in the number of teenagers waiting to become sexually active, as well as more teens learning how to effectively use birth control.