Abstaining From Ineffective Programs – By Emily Dietle
Martin S Pribble
Earlier this month, I signed a petition and emailed the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) about the inclusion of an abstinence only program in their “List of Evidence-Based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs,” called Heritage Keepers®. My argument was that abstinence only programs are not only NOT evidence-based, they are proven ineffective time and time again; even Fox “News” reported this.
You see, while Heritage Keepers® programs claim not to be faith-based, they partner with and provide training resources to religious “community leaders” that seek to teach abstinence only education to teens. They pronounce boldly that they are “primarily interested in providing training and resources for faith and community leaders so they can, in turn, provide training for those in their community.” In other words, they are a religious organization parading as secular- and they are pushing their ineffective abstinence “education” upon our youth, using our tax dollars. The following is the letter I received in response to my email that expressed my disdain for HHS including this faith-based abstinence program in their list.
The evidence review process is overseen by an HHS workgroup that is made up of the Administration for Children and Families, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Office of Adolescent Health, and the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation. In response to a public call for studies, a Heritage Keepers program evaluation study was submitted and found to be of moderate quality, as defined in the evidence review protocol, and that qualified it for inclusion on the HHS list. You can learn more about the evidence review protocol, the studies that were reviewed, and the programs on the list at http://www.hhs.gov/ash/oah/oah-initiatives/tpp/tpp-database.html
Office of Adolescent Health
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Rockville, MD 20852
What are we to take from this response? Well, HSS has good goals and intentions- but they don’t add up. They claim to want programs that have “demonstrated positive impacts on teen pregnancies, HIV or other STDs, and/or risky behaviors,” then add a program to their list that uses methods that don’t work. Abstinence-based education fails, and is only driven by a fear of healthy sexual dialogue that stems from religious paranoia and dogma about sex. Let’s have government-endorsed programs that don’t use our tax dollars to mix religion and health education; and moreover – Let’s teach our nation’s children how to lead healthy, responsible, and informed sex lives.