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Renee Sieving

University professor Renee Sieving is looking to reduce the rate of teen pregnancy in the U.S.--one of the highest in the industrialized world.

Reducing teen pregnancy

University project to help Twin Cities girls has "breakthrough potential"

By Mary Pattock

eNews, May 17, 2007

Why does the teen pregnancy rate in the United States remain one of the highest in the industrialized world? Associate Professor Renee Sieving has received a $3 million federal grant to help find the answer.

Sieving, leading a multi-disciplinary team of other University researchers, will use specific strategies to steer a group of 125 Twin Cities teens--all of whom are attending school and community health clinics--away from risky behaviors that can lead to pregnancy. At the end of 18 months in a program called "Prime Time: Health Promotion for Multiple Risk Behaviors," the group will be compared with a similar group of girls who have not participated in Prime Time but have continued to receive usual health clinic services.

Model has proved effective

"Previous research has shown that many factors contribute to teen pregnancy," says Sieving. "They include inadequate education, risky sexual behavior, involvement in violence, and not enough contact with adults who can provide resources and positive role models. The Prime Time intervention addresses all these factors--intensively and over a long enough period of time to have a lasting effect."

Prime Time involves girls in health promotion and youth leadership programs over 22 weeks, and then pays them to share health information with others. The girls will also take on community service projects, and meet at least monthly with a case manager with the goal of establishing a one-on-one relationship with an adult. In the process, Sieving says, they will become better connected at school, get help in coping with any violence they are dealing with in their lives, and become educated about the risks of sexual behavior. "Our goal is to help participants build the skills, confidence, motivation, opportunities, and social support that every teen needs to succeed," she says.

Sieving and her colleagues tested Prime Time strategies in a 1999-2004 pilot study and found the results encouraging. At the end of 12 months participants were reporting fewer sexual partners, and at the end of 18 months they were more consistently using contraception. "We also found that the program itself is highly acceptable to girls from resource-poor urban neighborhoods," Sieving says.

The current project is a more stringent test of the Prime Time intervention than the pilot study, since it randomly assigns girls to either Prime Time or a comparison group. Random assignment is considered the gold standard in intervention research.

Designed for use in clinics

Another goal of Prime Time is to improve the capacity of health clinics to prevent risky behaviors among their teenage patients by promoting healthy youth development. The project represents one of the first times such a youth development model has been adapted and tested for use by health clinics.

"We are excited--we think Prime Time has breakthrough potential," says Sieving. "Because many adolescent girls at high risk for early pregnancy do go to health clinics, it stands to reason that boosting clinics' ability to provide help that is proven to be effective could make a profound difference in the nation's teen pregnancy problem--and in the lives of thousands of young people."

Prime Time is funded by a five-year grant from the National Institute of Nursing Research, which is part of the National Institutes of Health.