More than 11% of New York City women ages 15-19 become pregnant each year.
The link between teen pregnancy, poverty and low high school graduate rates has long been a concern of the NYC Health Department. The teen pregnancy rate in NYC is particularly high at 85 per 1,000 females ages 15-19, compared to the national average of 70. Over 22,000 teens become pregnant every year, and almost 90% of these pregnancies are unintended, putting both mothers and their babies at higher risk of poor health and social outcomes.
In order to combat this pressing public health issue, it is crucial that NYC’s 742,000+ teens have easy access to reliable information, resources and guidance around reproductive health. To this end, in 2008, the Health Department’s Bureau of Maternal, Infant and Reproductive Health, in conjunction with the Office of School Health, launched the School-Based Health Center (SBHC) Reproductive Health Project, with funding from a private donor through the Fund for Public Health in New York. The project aims to reduce unintended pregnancies among NYC public high school students by ensuring that SBHCs provide comprehensive reproductive health services to students. To date, there are 42 SBHCs serving 108 public high schools in NYC, representing approximately 25% of the NYC public school population.
In its first three years, the SBHC Reproductive Health Project has focused on establishing a solid infrastructure for the project by improving the quality of the physical spaces where health services are provided, training and educating SBHC staff, increasing the range of contraceptive methods that are available at sites and developing an evaluation plan for the project. With ongoing funding from a private donor, the project will shift its focus to ensuring the program’s sustainability and continued growth.
The SBHC Reproductive Health Project strives to not only provide teens with access to confidential, age-appropriate and accurate reproductive health education and services, but also to instill in teens healthy attitudes towards their sexual health. The project has the potential to inform policy changes and change existing norms, and create an environment that will help teens make responsible decisions and become healthy adults.