A National Strategy to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. D. Improve Data Collection, Research, and Evaluation


Data collection, research, and evaluation are all critical for contributing to our understanding of the magnitude, trends, and causes of teen pregnancies and births; for developing targeted teen pregnancy prevention strategies; and for assessing how well these strategies work, whether on a local, state, or national level. As part of the national strategy, HHS will work to strengthen each of these important activities.

Data Collection and Surveillance. National statistics on teen birth patterns, including state-by-state data, are now available nearly a full year earlier than in prior years, a result of a more timely approach to collecting, compiling, and publishing vital statistics data. The new system builds on advances in computer and communications technology as well as the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics' (NCHS) long-standing collaboration with state vital statistics offices. Preliminary teen birth rates from the new system for 1995 were published in October 1996 and future statistics will be reported semiannually. (See Teen Birth Data ). The CDC also provides consultation to states and local areas to enable them to compute estimates of teen pregnancy and other related indicators.

The upcoming release in 1997 of the new National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add HEALTH), a comprehensive study of adolescent health funded by HHS' National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and other HHS agencies, will provide an opportunity to increase our knowledge about risky behaviors and resiliency factors in adolescents and about environmental influences, including parents, siblings, peers, schools, neighborhoods, and communities. The National Survey of Adolescent Males, supported by NICHD, OPA, and other HHS agencies, and the 1995 cycle of the National Survey of Family Growth, conducted by NCHS with other HHS support, will also provide relevant information on the behavior of young men and women.

Research and Evaluation. While promising approaches to reduce teenage pregnancy have been identified, a comprehensive review of teen pregnancy programs funded by HHS and conducted by Child Trends, Inc. indicates that most interventions have not been rigorously evaluated to assess their impact or to identify the components that contribute to program success or failure. Using our demonstration programs, we will work with our partners to increase our understanding of what works and what does not. For example, the CDC's Community Coalition Partnership Program for the Prevention of Teen Pregnancy is helping each community to incorporate evaluation into its teen pregnancy prevention strategy. In addition, the National Institutes of Health is sponsoring research on interventions to prevent teen pregnancy.

The Child Trends report also indicates that further research is needed in a number of areas of normal adolescent development, including why certain adolescents engage in high-risk behaviors, why some adolescents are able to negotiate safely to adulthood, and what factors influence adolescent sexual behavior, including media influences and cultural norms. In addition to its own research studies and demonstration projects, HHS will provide information from its new survey data, (e.g., Add HEALTH), to help researchers answer these questions.