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Report Blasting Abstinence Education 'Misses the Boat'
New York’s Healthy Respect Program ensures excellence by using a control study group and qualitative evaluation system
The accuracy and effectiveness of abstinence education for young people have come under intense scrutiny in recent days with the release of a report by U.S. Congressman Henry A. Waxman of California, who claims that many programs receiving federal funds teach students “false and misleading information.”
Supporters of abstinence education have criticized the report as biased and based on incomplete information, and as designed to disrupt the Bush administration’s plan to increase funding of proven abstinence programs. The ranking minority (Democratic) leader of the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, Waxman takes some items in abstinence curriculums out of context and magnifies some easily correctable factual errors. It also fails to scrutinize the shortfalls and effectiveness of condom-based sex-education programs, which it clearly promotes.
Healthy Respect joins in the criticism of the Waxman report. Although not all abstinence programs are perfect, they are all dedicated to the common-sense and scientifically supported fact that only sexual abstinence before marriage guarantees that a young person will enter adulthood free of sexually transmitted diseases and out-of-wedlock pregnancies.
Alma Golden, M.D., a pediatrician and deputy assistant secretary for Population Affairs in the federal Office of Public Health and Sciences, said the report “misses the boat.” She called Waxman’s “purely political” effort to discredit abstinence education “a disservice to our children.”
"Since Dr. Joe McIlhaney's appointment in 2002 to the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, The Medical Institute has had an increasing role in helping the Bush administration's effort to stem the tragic toll that disease has taken worldwide. Dr. McIlhaney serves on the Centers for Disease Control's Advisory Board to influence CDC policy decisions as well.
Joe S. McIlhaney, M.D., president of the Medical Institute for Sexual Health in Texas, said in a letter to the Washington Post that the Waxman study “is filled with misstatements” and that “there is considerable research documenting that abstinence-education programs produce measurable results.” In contrast, he adds, not one school-based comprehensive sex-ed program, which confuses the abstinence message with information about condoms and other contraceptives, “has ever been shown to lower sexually transmitted diseases, HIV or non-marital pregnancy rates.”
The Abstinence Clearinghouse in Sioux Falls, S.D., which has been chosen by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to evaluate and disseminate information on abstinence education, posts Dr. Golden’s statement on its Web site in response to the Waxman report. “Studies show, as does my own experience as a pediatrician,” Dr. Golden writes, “that abstinence works especially when combined with the involvement of parents in educating their children about what expectations they have and the setting of boundaries of behavior.”
The organization also posts a response to a new statement by the American Medical Association that questions the scientific underpinnings and effectiveness of abstinence education programs, citing a study by the Centers for Disease Control which credited abstinence education programs for accounting for 53 percent of the drop in teen pregnancy rate. Additionally, the organization writes, “a peer-reviewed study on single teens found that abstinence was responsible for nearly 67 percent of the drop in teen pregnancy.”
The Bush administration plans to spend about $170 million on abstinence programs next year, about double what was spent four years ago. The money, however, is still far less than the federal funds going toward condom-related sex education.
Proven, Positive Programs
“Healthy Respect is committed to excellence, accuracy and qualitative evaluations in all its programs,” said John P. Margand, Esq., executive director of Healthy Respect. “Abstinence education is still in its early stages, but there is solid evidence that it has already begun to turn back the tide of sexually transmitted diseases and teen pregnancies.
Now in its second year in New York public schools, Healthy Respect has reached more than 800 students with up to 20 hours of life-affirming information on abstinence and healthy choices.
To support the accurate and positive information of its carefully developed curriculum, Healthy Respect conducts confidential student evaluations in all the schools where it operates. These evaluations are developed and reviewed by an independent researcher who publishes periodic reports based on the information showing changes in attitudes and behaviors among students. A key element in these evaluations is that they are also given to a control group of students at each school who do not take the Healthy Respect course. This ensures a more accurate and scientifically verifiable result.
Healthy Respect is dedicated to excellence and accuracy, and the health and welfare of New York’s young people.