With Kentucky ranking eighth in teenage pregnancy in the United States, it has become clear to lawmakers and public officials that something must be done to reduce risky sexual behaviors in teens.
According to the University of Louisville website, the Kent School of Social Work recently received a $4.8 million grant from the Department of Health and Human Services. The Kent School plans to put that money toward reducing the incidence of teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases and violence. Creating Healthy Adolescents through Meaningful Prevention Services, or CHAMPS, is a program that will serve 1,260 local teens and work in cooperation with several community-based organizations.
Anita Barbee, a professor in the Kent School, says the program will target communities in West and South-Central Louisville.
“Three main populations that are very vulnerable to this particular problem of pregnancy, youth violence and disease,” said Barbee.
These will include immigrant and refugee populations, as well as former foster children. Those in cooperating community-based organizations will receive training in order to approach the issue.
The problem of risky sexual behavior in teens is complex and the CHAMPS program will be employing different strategies to get results. These strategies will focus on developing healthy relationships and improving communication skills between sexual partners.
Researchers will be observing the effects over the next few years to attempt to determine which strategies work the best. University officials are hopeful, as this is the largest grant the Kent School has yet received. According to Barbee, the goal of this program is to cut the current teen pregnancy rate in Kentucky – 50 out of every 1,000 teenage girls – in half.
Greg Fischer, newly-inaugurated Louisville mayor, showed his support for the program and for the community.
“There will be hundreds of teens involved in this project and they’ll be exposed for the first time to the quality faculty and staff here at the University of Louisville,” said Fischer.