Public health experts directly attribute this success to state laws that require California’s public schools to offer comprehensive sex ed classes with scientifically accurate information about birth control. State officials also credited family planning programs that provide community-based resources to teens. “We do believe that our programs are behind these numbers,” Karen Ramstrom, the chief of the program standards branch at the California Department of Public Health’s maternal child and adolescent health division, told the Los Angeles Times.
That’s in line with national trends. As a whole, the United States’ teen pregnancy rate has been plummeting to record lows, largely because teens are gaining better access to contraceptive methods and opting to use birth control as soon as they become sexually active. And research suggests that community-based youth programs are one of the most effective strategies of instilling teens with healthy attitudes and safe approaches toward sexuality.
But progress in this area isn’t uniform across every area of the country. While states like California are making huge gains, the teen pregnancy rate remains stubbornly high in the South. Adolescents there tend to receive ineffective abstinence education, and they’re more likely to lack access to birth control resources.