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With some of the highest teen birth rates and sexually transmitted infections in the United States, Arizona is facing a public health and educational crisis. Four local nonprofits—Teen Outreach Pregnancy Services, Planned Parenthood Arizona, Sunnyside Unified School District, and Child & Family Resources—mobilized as the Tucson Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition (TTPPC) to implement effective, evidence-based, medically accurate, responsible relationships and sexuality education to middle and high school students in the Sunnyside district.

“We are thrilled to be able to work with our partners at the TTPPC to finally be able to bring much-needed sex education resources to the Sunnyside community,” said Daniel Hernandez, President of the Sunnyside School District Governing Board. “We hope that this success will lead to other districts following our lead to ensure that the students of Arizona have the information they need to make informed choices.”

This July, the US DHHS, Office of Adolescent Health awarded the coalition $4.3 million, over five years, to train Sunnyside staff, primarily health and science teachers, to teach abstinence-based sexuality education. By the spring of 2016, parents in the Sunnyside district will have the option of allowing their children to receive this important health information. The middle school Making a Difference and high school Reducing the Risk curricula are both evidence-based and age-appropriate curricula that encourage abstinence as a first choice while also providing information about methods of protection. Pregnant or parenting teens will be able to participate in a teen-parent-focused program Be Proud, Be Responsible, Be Protective. By 2020, all programs will be self-sustaining within the district. The funding also supports an independent outcomes evaluation of the program by Tucson-based LeCroy & Milligan Associates, Inc.

Over 100 studies have shown that high-quality sexuality education helps young people delay the initiation of sex, and use condoms and contraception when they do become sexually active. These are the very behaviors that are necessary to preventing pregnancy. In 2010, public spending on teen childbearing in the United States totaled an estimated $9.4 billion. Investments in effective teen pregnancy prevention programs are not only providing young people with the information and skills they need to make healthy decisions; they are also good for taxpayers.

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