Note from the Commissioner: We need to Save Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs

While the Affordable Care Act repeal conversations in Congress are on hold, there have been significant funding cuts that threaten the most vulnerable residents in Baltimore and across the U.S.

In July, BCHD received notice from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that a grant to provide comprehensive teen pregnancy prevention services will be terminated two years early, resulting in a reduction of $3.5 million for funding in Baltimore City.

Earlier this month, I wrote a letter to Maryland's federal delegation requesting their support for a restoration of this funding. This week, I joined a call with other public health leaders from the Big Cities Health Coalition to discuss the funding cuts and the drastic effect it will have on millions of youth across the country.

As I mentioned this week on WYPR’s Midday with Tom Hall and as covered in The HillThe Washington Post, and The Washington Times, over 20,000 students in Baltimore will lose access to the evidence-based reproductive health curricula, creating a vacuum of critical health education for thousands of vulnerable teens. The cut in funding further removes support to train teachers and build capacity for health education. This year alone, we trained 115 teachers to deliver evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs.

As a doctor and public health official, I have seen how much this grant has helped us in Baltimore. I am deeply concerned about three major areas if this funding is curtailed:

  1. Reduced educational attainment and economic opportunities for our youth. We have made unprecedented progress in reducing teen birth rates in our city by 44 percent from 2009-2015.

  2. Increased costs for our city and for our country. In 2010, teen pregnancy and childbirth accounted for nearly $10 billion in costs nationwide. We should be doing everything we can to empower our youth to succeed and to thrive.

  3. Adverse health outcomes for our most vulnerable mothers and children. Teen mothers have higher rates of giving birth to preterm, low birth-weight babies, who are more likely to have worse health outcomes. There are also health consequences to the moms themselves.

If we have a strategy that will improve health outcomes for our women and children, then the last thing we should do is to cut funding that could hurt generations to come.

On the frontlines, we do not see this cut in funding as only a number. We see the faces of teens who will no longer receive the support they need and the negative effect on their futures and their children’s futures. We see the ways that this will hurt the vulnerable populations in our city. 

This is the time for us to raise our voices and work together to protect the health and well-being of our city’s young people, their families and our community.

Sincerely,

Leana S. Wen, M.D., M.Sc.

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