To reach adolescent populations at risk for premature sexual activity and pregnancy, we must develop comprehensive efforts specifically tailored to the unique needs, interests, and challenges of each group, including targeted messages that work. Although the national strategy must send the strongest possible message to all teens that postponing sexual activity, staying in school, and preparing to work are the right things to do, the research shows that girls and boys experience some aspects of early adolescence in different ways, because they encounter different social, cultural, physiological and psychological challenges. Therefore, different approaches will be required to meet the unique needs of different adolescent populations, including disabled teens who are at increased risk of pregnancy. As a result, an important component of the national strategy will be to determine the best ways to reach different groups of young boys and girls.
The national strategy will place a special emphasis on encouraging abstinence among 9- to 14-year-old girls. The research tells us that this a critical age for reinforcing self confidence and positive values and attitudes among girls. In 1997, HHS will use its new Girl Power! campaign to address premature sexual activity among girls aged 9-14, promoting a strong abstinence message. The Girl Power! campaign, launched in November, 1996, is a multi-phased, national public education campaign designed to galvanize parents, schools, communities, religious organizations, health care providers, and other caring adults to make regular sustained efforts to reinforce girls' self-confidence, by providing them with positive messages, meaningful opportunities, and accurate information on a variety of key health issues. The Girl Power! abstinence education initiative includes: engaging all HHS teen pregnancy prevention and related youth programs in sustained efforts to promote abstinence among 9- to 14-year-old girls, and developing and implementing a national media campaign to involve parents and caring adults in sending a strong abstinence message across the country.
The national strategy will also focus on boys and young men. Significantly less is known about the decision-making behavior of boys around motivations for abstinence, sexual activity, and fatherhood. Through the national strategy, HHS will increase our understanding of these factors and work to develop effective prevention strategies, particularly those promoting abstinence, for boys. These efforts will include working with the Administration's Fatherhood Initiative to ensure that men, including pre-teen and teenage boys, receive the education and support necessary to postpone fatherhood until they are emotionally and financially capable of supporting children. The strategy will also build on existing Departmental efforts, such as the Title X Family Planning Adolescent Male Initiative and other Title X-funded projects to support male-oriented community-based organizations in promoting responsible behavior among teenage boys.
Finally, the Department will work with national youth-serving organizations to use their networks to promote activities that encourage abstinence among girls and boys. With their important efforts in stimulating parental and community involvement, these programs will help provide the sustained commitment necessary to help prevent teen pregnancy.