By Christine Vestal
President Barack Obama hailed a landmark achievement in his State of the Union address last month: Teen pregnancies in the U.S. have hit an all-time low.
But the U.S. still has a teen birthrate of 31.2 per 1,000 teens, nearly one-and-a-half times the rate in the United Kingdom, which has one of the highest rates in Western Europe.
Colorado may have found a way to close the gap. The state’s teen birthrate dropped 40 percent between 2009 and 2013, driven largely by a public health initiative that gives low-income young women across the state long-acting contraceptives such as intrauterine devices (IUDs) and hormonal implants.
Colorado has a successful model for stemming teen pregnancies. But will state lawmakers continue paying for it?
Backed by $23.5 million from the Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation
, Colorado attracted national recognition for its program after Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper announced
the results of a cost-savings study last summer.
The state saved $42.5 million in 2010 alone, an average return of $5.85 in avoided Medicaid costs for prenatal, delivery and first year of infant care for every $1 spent on the program.
More important, Hickenlooper said, the initiative “has helped thousands of young Colorado women continue their education, pursue their professional goals and postpone pregnancy until they are ready to start a family.”
According to program supervisor Greta Klingler, Illinois, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin have asked Colorado to share its techniques and lessons learned. Illinois is already adopting some of Colorado’s methods in a statewide Medicaid program for unwanted pregnancy prevention, she said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also seeking more details from Colorado.
Bill Albert, chief program officer at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, pointed to the promise of state-based programs that rely on low-maintenance, highly effective methods of contraception coupled with good counseling.
“We’ve made progress, but if we’re going to continue making progress, efforts going forward will have to be as innovative and up-to-date as possible,” Albert said.
But Colorado’s program will end this June when its private grant runs out, unless lawmakers approve state funding to keep it going for another year. A $5 million funding bill was introduced this month with bipartisan sponsorship, but it won’t necessarily be an easy win, especially in the Republican-led state Senate. Continue reading