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Member Spotlight: Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy

Updated: Jan 15, 2021

By Perdita Henry

Texas’ teen pregnancy rates remain higher than the national average, and there are several reasons why. Young people have little access to science-based sexual health information in schools, they lack access to healthcare, and if they experience an unintended pregnancy, there may be little support to help them. The Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy understands that organizations, stakeholders, and communities working with young people need support.

“Since 2009, the Texas Campaign has worked to build constructive dialogue among partners statewide around teen pregnancy, adolescent sexual health, and effective prevention strategies,” Molly Clayton, Executive Director says. “We excel at developing innovative, collaborative and sustainable solutions by ensuring communities understand the connection between teen pregnancies and maternal and childhood health and wellbeing, educational achievement, the poverty cycle, and the broader Texas economy.”

Making sure students have sexual health education is just a part of setting them and their communities up for success. “We address systemic reasons that teens lack access to resources and support direct service providers, focusing on nonpartisan advocacy and building capacity of adult stakeholders to empower young Texans,” Clayton says.

To do that, the Texas Campaign conducts research and compiles data examining teen pregnancy, teen birth, and other adolescent health indicators. They advocate for public policies that increase young Texans’ access to knowledge and healthcare, collaborate with partners across the state to leverage local and regional resources, and they host training events to ensure partners learn from one another and have access to resources.

I sat down with Clayton to learn more about the Texas Campaigns mission, their Texas Youth-Friendly Initiative, the upcoming ninth annual Symposium, and what’s on their agenda ahead of the 87th legislative session.

The ninth annual Texas Campaign’s Annual Symposium is just around the corner! Is there anything you can share about the upcoming event for those thinking about attending?

This event provides an opportunity for individuals to come together and learn how to build capacity, influence decision makers, and lead change within their local communities. We welcome 250-300 professionals from across the state, including educators, practitioners, social workers, clinicians, researchers, youth service professionals, and others who have a special interest in improving the health of adolescents.

Our objectives are to:

  • Provide the latest information on teen pregnancy and adolescent development that is appropriate for the diverse knowledge base and skills of participants;

  • Increase participant knowledge regarding evidence-informed interventions focused on culturally competent care for medically underserved adolescents living in Texas;

  • Share best practices for promoting adolescent and child health, youth friendly services and trauma-informed care and to explore innovative programs of each;

  • Identify and invest in youth and young adult voices to draw in those who are directly affected by adolescent health advocacy; and

  • Raise awareness of continuing disparities in reproductive healthcare access and outcomes that persist in many communities within Texas.

We’re also excited to collaborate with Healthy Futures of Texas to bring this year’s event to San Antonio.

The Collaborative for Youth in Care (CLYC) is made up of nine organizations to form “strategies to address pregnancy prevention and provide parenting support to Houston-area youth in conservatorship.” What are the goals of this program and how do the organizations plan to reach them?

The CLYC project seeks to understand the complex needs of youth in conservatorship related to reproductive healthcare access, teen pregnancy prevention, and support for pregnant and parenting youth. A research project will engage youth with lived experience in the foster system, as well as caregivers and youth-serving professionals. Then project partners will work to strengthen existing programs and resources for youth and adults.

The project also includes a very exciting component around providing workforce development opportunities for current and former youth in care, including a certification path to be a Community Health Worker (CHW). Throughout the project, we’ll be developing an advocacy strategy to support long-term improvements related to statewide policies and systems.

How does the Texas Youth-Friendly Initiative hope to change the way teens receive care in Texas?

The Texas Youth Friendly Initiative (TYFI) brings together cohorts of publicly funded health clinics in a collaborative learning environment and provides extensive training, technical assistance and convening, with the goal of creating health centers that are equipped to provide excellent care to adolescents. The program works off a model developed by the University of Michigan’s Adolescent Health Initiative, which has shown effectiveness in many other states. We engage all levels of clinic staff – from the front desk, to the physicians, to the administration – developing champions who can spread positive change within the organization.

Our third TYFI cohort recently graduated and we couldn’t be prouder of what they’ve accomplished. The learning collaborative model is especially powerful, as clinics build relationships and learn from each other’s success.

Notable achievements include:

  • creating teen waiting rooms to make clients feel comfortable as soon as they walk in the door;

  • implementing same-day LARC access;

  • significantly increasing compliance with HPV vaccinations; and

  • improving practices around motivational interviewing.

Program evaluation was especially strong around clinic staff’s understanding of minor consent to care laws. Texas healthcare laws about what type of care minors can access without parental consent – and what their rights are regarding confidential care – are extremely confusing and complex. By the end of the certification process, participants reported that all relevant staff had received training around consent and confidentiality and had a much higher comfort level delivering care.

As you prepare for the 87th legislative session, what topics are you all hoping to bring more attention to?

Our advocacy work tends to focus on two key pillars: access to healthcare resources and access to information. On the healthcare side, we plan to streamline some of Texas’s labyrinthian laws around minor consent to contraception. Texas currently has the highest rate of repeat teen birth in the nation. A 17-year-old mother can consent to all medical care for her baby – but under state law, she cannot consent to her own birth control prescription. It’s common sense to ensure she can easily access contraception if she wishes.

We’ll also work on adding birth control as a fully covered benefit in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Texas is one of just two states that doesn’t cover contraception in CHIP for purposes of pregnancy prevention, leaving tens of thousands of young women at higher risk of unplanned pregnancy. We’ll continue to support the efforts of our healthcare partners in streamlining Medicaid program access and transition of care for teens and for pregnant women.

On the information side, we’ll continue to advocate for high quality sexual health education in schools, which research consistently supports for risk reduction around unintended pregnancy and STI prevention, and to promote healthy relationships. Outside of the legislature, we are currently working to improve minimum curriculum standards for sex education, which the State Board of Education is expected to vote on this September.

Why is it important for your organization to be a TWHC member?

TWHC has been an invaluable resource in the policy sphere, in program development, and in building a network of partners that are effective in supporting Texas teens. Over the last few sessions, TWHC has been a tireless advocate for funding reproductive health programs and maintaining key relationships and communication with the state agencies that run women’s health programs. We know that we’re stronger together, and we’re so grateful for the collaboration, partnership, and support provided by TWHC and member organizations.

What does an ideal future for women’s health look like according to the Texas Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy?

We envision a world in which every Texas teen has access to the information and resources needed to be in charge of their health, their bodies, and their futures. Ideally, there would be no barriers to accessing reproductive health care, informed consent and client-centered contraceptive counseling would be the stateside practice. No one would be denied their preferred method of contraception due to billing red tape or lack of provider knowledge.

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