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.


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


Subscribe to the Bmore Healthy newsletter.

Related Stories

Note from the Commissioner: Protecting our Community’s Health

This week, I celebrated the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month celebration as the keynote speaker for the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office. By invitation of Special Agent in Charge Gordon Johnson, I applauded the efforts of the FBI to embrace diversity and inclusion in their work. I discussed the shared core values driving the work of those of us on the frontlines of public health and public safety: Compassion, fairness, and respect for the dignity of all those we protect. And I had the opportunity conduct a naloxone training for agents and analysts and discuss how addiction is a disease for which we must all approach with urgency.

All sectors must be engaged to protect our community’s health and well-being. I was glad to provide the opening keynote for the United Way of Central Maryland’s Emerging Leaders United Young Professionals Conference. These young professionals are coming from backgrounds as diverse as finance, law, architecture, and accounting, but each of them are engaged in social justice and community service. Researchers and academics can be just as engaged. Last Thursday, I presented to doctors, nurses, and public health researchers as part of the Women’s Health, Sex, and Gender Research Symposium at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. There, I discussed the importance of academic researchers building relationships with the local communities in which they work. Everyone can make a difference in the communities we live and serve.

Subscribe to the Bmore Healthy newsletter.

Bmore Healthy Newsletter: May 18, 2018

Click here to read the 5/18/18 newsletter. Subscribe to the Bmore Healthy newsletter.

In this issue:

  • Note from the Commissioner
  • WYPR 88.1FM – Dr. Wen Participates in Midday’s “Healthwatch” Segment
  • Dr. Wen Speaks at United Way of Central Maryland’s Emerging Young Leaders United (ELU) Young Professionals Conference
  • and more

Note From The Commissioner: Treating Addiction in our Hospitals

Last week, Mayor Catherine E. Pugh and I convened all 11 hospitals in Baltimore to announce our partnership to combat the opioid epidemic. Addiction is a disease. Treatment for it cannot be siloed and stigmatized.

Baltimore City hospitals have done exceptional work already. Nearly all of our City’s ERs offer medication-assisted treatment on demand and peer recovery specialists, something true of no other major city in America. Through my standing order for naloxone, more than 36,000 residents have been trained to use the antidote medication, and these residents have saved more than 1,900 lives. Law enforcement and health officials teamed up to start a program that allows residents arrested for low-level drug offenses the opportunity to choose treatment and case management instead of prosecution. In March, we announced the opening of our Stabilization Center, a first-of-its-kind 24/7 urgent care facility dedicated to issues of addiction and mental health.

Subscribe to the Bmore Healthy newsletter.