AMA meeting: Comprehensive sex ed said to have most impact
■ A report says abstinence should be one part -- but not the only one -- of teaching kids about sexual activity.
Chicago Sex education that provides information about abstinence, condom use and other contraceptive methods is the most effective way to reduce the growing number of teenagers who contract a sexually transmitted infection or become pregnant.
So federal funding should flow to comprehensive programs proven to address these public health issues, according to a Council on Science and Public Health report adopted at the AMA Annual Meeting.
The studies reviewed found "no delay of initiating sexual activity, no reduction in the number of sexual partners and no increase in abstinence" from abstinence-only programs, said Stuart Gitlow, MD, MPH, who presented the council's report.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the birth rate among teens age 15 to 19 rose to 41.9 per 1,000 live births in 2006 from 40.5 in 2005. This rate had been declining for the previous 14 years. Other studies have found about a fourth of teen girls had at least one STD.
"What we're talking about is comprehensive programs which, of course, include abstinence, but we can't just stick our heads in the sand and expect them to do the right thing. We have to provide them with all of the information they need to make responsible, adult decisions," said Barry Sheppard, MD, a thoracic surgeon and alternate delegate for the California Medical Assn.
Some delegates argued that abstinence-only education was being subjected to tougher standards than other sex education programs and had not been given enough of a chance to make an impact.
"What works in California may not work in Mississippi," said Freda Bush, MD, an ob-gyn and alternate delegate for the Mississippi State Medical Assn. "We need to work together to find and fund what works to help protect America's children."