Tribal Communities Benefit from Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program

Two Native American youth standing next to each other

Every year, around 750,000 American teens between the ages of 15 and 19 become pregnant.

Adolescent pregnancy is a particular problem for Native American girls. Although less than 3 percent of the U.S. teen population, Native Americans have significantly higher teen birth rates when compared to their non-Hispanic white counterparts.

In fact after declining for more than a decade, the teen birth rate among Native American teens increased by 12 percent between 2005 and 2007 — more than any other racial/ethnic group.1

To help reverse this trend, the Family and Youth Services Bureau consulted with tribes and then decided to focus its newest grant funding opportunity — the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP) — on the Native American community. 
PREP, created through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010, focuses on teen pregnancy prevention and is designed to help prepare young people in their transition to adulthood. Using or adapting interventions that have already been scientifically proven to change behavior, projects must educate youth on both abstinence and birth control with the goal of preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.

Although we have evaluated many projects, only a handful of these strategies include Native youth. Part of the challenge of developing a tribal pregnancy prevention program was to incorporate and adapt models or elements of existing models to meet the particular needs of this community.

Encouraging a holistic approach to youth development, PREP projects integrate at least three adulthood preparation topics:

• Healthy relationships

• Adolescent development

• Financial literacy

• Parent-child communication

• Educational and career success

• Life skills - goal-setting and decision making

To ensure that the program honors Tribal needs, traditions, and cultures, FYSB conducted a series of public consultations in Fall 2010 and Winter 2011 that brought together more than 150 people from more than 30 Tribes.

Individual Tribal leaders and representatives of tribal organizations stressed their desire to design programs at the local level, where individual community needs and cultural values can be reflected. 

“FYSB understands and honors the fact that Tribes have unique ways of approaching community challenges, ways that are deeply rooted in cultural traditions,” Deborah Yatsko (Choctaw), FYSB’s Tribal Liaison said. “We look forward to building and expanding our partnerships with Tribes and tribal organizations as they design community-based projects to address teen pregnancy, disease prevention, and the challenges youth face as they transition to adulthood.”

By 2011, 16 Tribes and tribal organizations had welcomed PREP to their communities. First year grantees have received a combined $6.5 million to implement the program in Alabama, Arizona, California, Michigan, North Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Oregon and South Dakota.  

1Hamilton, BE, Martin, JA and Ventura, SJ (2009). Births: Preliminary Data for 2007. National Vital Statistics Reports, 57(12).

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