Rigorous Evaluation of a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Intervention

The public health issue: Young people in Philadelphia experience high rates of unintended pregnancy. Many never receives comprehensive sex education. Without the information to make informed, empowered, and thoughtful sexual decisions, teens are left unprepared to manage their reproductive health. Typical forms of disseminating sex education only reach those directly enrolled in a program and don’t always leave young people with the opportunities to ask further questions after the program ends. Plain Talk Philadelphia was a five-year study we conducted of a community-wide sexual health intervention implemented in North Philadelphia public housing developments which facilitated discussion about sex, birth control, and pregnancy between teens and adults in the community. The program is designed to increase adolescent self-esteem and self-efficacy through interactive workshops for adolescents and their parents on topics such as sexual health, anatomy and physiology, and decision-making.

Our contribution to the solution: The Research & Evaluation Group rigorously studied the impact of the intervention. In order to evaluate the community-level impact of Plain Talk, we used a variety of methods, including:

  • surveys at three time points during the adolescent education programming and post-event surveys with parents that asked participants about satisfaction, knowledge gained, and intention;
  • structured observations evaluating curriculum fidelity, education delivery, and other successes and challenges;
  • focus groups with participants about their experiences with the program, their sources of trusted health information, and their reactions to the advertising of the program; and
  • in-depth, in-person interviews with adolescents and their parents in public housing communities

Our findings revealed high satisfaction with the program for both adolescent and parent participants. One participant said, “Plain Talk didn’t cause the discussion but made the conversation easier and less awkward.” Eighty percent of young people age 14 to 21 in the study ever reported having had sex at baseline. Ninety percent of sexually active young people we interviewed reported using (male) condoms. Sixty-six percent of sexually active young people used the “pull-out method” to prevent pregnancy during sex, while less than five percent used an IUD. At baseline, 54% of young people said that if a friend had sexual health questions, their parents/caregivers would understand, help, and keep the friend’s business private. Additional findings related to less risky behaviors reported by intervention participants compared to those in the comparison group.

Plain Talk Philadelphia was tested by PHMC’s Health Promotion Services and funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau, Administration on Children, Youth and Families.

 Read more about our other sexual and reproductive health projects.