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Reproductive Health: Strategies and Approaches

Efforts are currently under way to explore strategies to reduce teen childbearing and its associated negative outcomes for parents, children, and society. Teen pregnancy is estimated to cost U.S. taxpayers between $9.4 and $28 billion a year. 1,2 However, research suggests that implementing evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs, expanding access to Medicaid family planning services, and utilizing mass media campaigns to promote safe sex may reduce teen pregnancy and lighten the burden on taxpayers.3

Additionally, the Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, aims to improve access to recommended health care services for the entire population, including adolescents. The law expands health insurance coverage for teens, and offers new support for preventive services, innovative models of care, and clinical training, all of which have implications for teen pregnancy in the United States.4

See below for specific strategies and approaches for:


The only certain way to avoid unwanted pregnancies is to abstain from sexual intercourse. For adolescents who are sexually active, using effective contraceptives (such as condoms, birth control pills, the patch, the vaginal ring, the intrauterine device [IUD], and/or injectable birth control methods) every time that they have sexual intercourse will reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy.5 In addition to using a contraceptive method that protects against pregnancy, using condoms correctly with every sex act from start to finish will reduce the risk of HIV and other STDs for males and females.6


Visit our Tips for Parents page to learn more about talking to your teen about pregnancy prevention. Healthfinder.gov also has helpful strategies and tips for parents on how they can start and maintain conversations with teens about relationships and sexual decisions.

Healthcare Providers

Healthcare providers should:

  • Screen and counsel adolescents for sexual risk behaviors, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and dating violence. Learn more about the preventive services covered under the Affordable Care Act.
  • Provide teen-friendly sexual and reproductive health care services. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has an infographic and additional information on providing teen-friendly reproductive health visits.
  • Locate continuing education opportunities and find teaching tools/curricula, current clinical practice references, and other helpful resources from the National Network of STD and HIV Prevention Training Centers. Also check out the latest STD Treatment Guidelines from CDC.

Providers can visit our Tips for Parents page to learn more about talking with teens about pregnancy prevention.


Where we live, work, and play affects our health. Whether or not a neighborhood has safe sidewalks and playgrounds, effective schools, access to consistent and high-quality health care, as well as to jobs and opportunities, can all influence adolescents’ choices and hopes for the future and their present and future health. Communities can undertake programs that include broad-based strategies to reach many of the youth in the community (e.g., through communication strategies and media campaigns) and through programs targeting youth most in need of prevention and other program services (e.g., through implementation of evidence-based programs and improved links to services).

What communities can do:

  • Implement an evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention program in your area. Visit HHS’ searchable database to find a program that was shown to be effective in reducing teen pregnancy, STDs, and behavioral risks, and that fits the needs of your community.
  • Find HHS-funded teen pregnancy prevention programs in your area. Check out OAH’s and ACF’s lists of grantees to find organizations working in your state and community.
  • Consider creating a youth development behavioral intervention. Emphasize social and emotional competence, improved decision making and communication skills, self-determination, and positive bonding experiences with adult role models, with a goal of reducing sexual risks, as recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force.
  • Encourage schools and organizations to use effective tools and resources and training materials. The right tools may help to reduce sexual risk behaviors among adolescents.

Learn more about the reproductive health of adolescents in your state or about how the teen birth rate in your county compares to that other counties in your state and across the nation.


1 Hoffman, S. D., & Maynard, R. A. (Eds.). (2008). Kids having kids: Economic costs and social consequences of teen pregnancy (2nd ed.). Washington, DC: Urban Institute Press.
2 The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. (2013). Counting it up: The public costs of teen childbearing: Key data. Washington, DC: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. Retrieved from https://powertodecide.org/what-we-do/information/resource-library/counting-it-key-data.
3 Thomas, A. (2012). Policy solutions for preventing unplanned pregnancy. Washington, DC: Brookings. Retrieved from http://www.brookings.edu/reports/2012/03_unplanned_pregnancy_thomas.aspx.
4 English, A. (2010). The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010: How does it help adolescents and young adults? San Francisco, CA: Center for Adolescent Health & the Law, National Adolescent Health Information and Innovation Center. Retrieved from http://nahic.ucsf.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/HCR_Issue_Brief_Aug2010_Final_Aug31.pdf.
5 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2014). Unintended pregnancy prevention: Contraception. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/UnintendedPregnancy/Contraception.htm.
6 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013). Condoms and STDs: Fact sheet for public health personnel. Washington, DC: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/condomeffectiveness/docs/condoms_and_stds.pdf.
Content created by Office of Adolescent Health
Content last reviewed on March 28, 2019