Response to study on teenage pregnancy and spending cutsJon
A study titled ‚ÄòThe effect of spending cuts on teen pregnancy‘ has been published in the Journal of Health Economics by David Paton (Nottingham University Business School) and Liam Wright (University of Sheffield).
The study claims to find that: “in contrast to predictions by politicians and organisations working in the field, local areas which imposed bigger cuts to projects aimed at reducing teenage pregnancy have, on average, experienced faster decreases in teenage pregnancy rates.”
We agree with the authors of this study that their findings do need to “be interpreted cautiously”.
Teenage pregnancy rates have fallen dramatically over the past 20 years, thanks to the hard work of health and education professionals, and the legacy of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, which included substantial investment into services and education.
The benefit of making an investment is that you can see the benefits for some time to come, and we are no doubt still seeing the lasting effects of the government’s 10-year teenage pregnancy strategy now. As the authors of this study rightly acknowledged: “adverse effects of cuts may only be felt in the longer term”.
The idea that increased access to contraception and good quality relationships and sex education leads to a rise in unwanted pregnancies is a persistent – but inaccurate – myth.
Research shows that contraceptive use (among women aged 16-49) is lowest among 16-19 year olds. And evidence consistently shows that school-based relationships and sex education helps young people make safe and healthy choices such as waiting longer before they start having sex and being less likely to have unsafe sex.
When combined with access to sexual health services, sex education also contributes towards increasing earlier reporting of sexual abuse and (in some cases) its prevention, reducing intimate partner violence, reducing maternal and infant mortality, prevention and earlier treatment of sexually transmitted infections (including HIV), and reducing health inequality.
The study also makes reference to a recent Cochrane review of trials of school-based relationships and sex education, despite a clarification from one of the review’s authors that the review does not demonstrate that sex education doesn’t achieve its aims.
It’s also worth noting that one of the study’s authors is a long-standing opponent of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, as he has outlined in numerous articles over the last 10 years and at the 2015 youth conference of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC).
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