From the Journals

Community-wide initiative ups teen LARC adoption sixfold



In Rochester, N.Y., a comprehensive community initiative that raised awareness about and delivered training in the use of long-acting reversible contraceptives (LARCs) significantly upped LARC adoption among sexually active female high schoolers.


Over the course of the 3-year project, LARC use rose from about 4% to 24% in this group, a statistically significant increase (P less than .0001). During the same time period, LARC use increased nationally, as well, but at a lower rate, rising from 2% to 5% for the same population, while New York state saw LARC use rise from 2% to 5%.

In New York City, where an unrelated LARC awareness campaign was conducted, LARC use went from 3% to 5% over the study period for sexually active female high school students. Comparing the trend in LARC use in Rochester to the secular trend in these control groups showed significantly higher uptake over time in Rochester (P less than .0001).

Through a series of lunch-and-learn talks given to adults who work with adolescents in community-based settings and in medical settings, the Greater Rochester LARC Initiative reached more than 1,300 individuals during July 2014-June 2017, C. Andrew Aligne, MD, MPH, of the University of Rochester (N.Y.), and coauthors reported in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Of the 81 total talks delivered, 50 were in medical settings, reaching 703 attendees ranging from front-office personnel to primary care physicians, advanced practice clinicians, and nurses; the talks in community-based settings reached 662 attendees.

“We use the term ‘community detailing’ to describe the design of the intervention because it was an innovative hybrid of academic detailing and community health education,” explained Dr. Aligne and colleagues. This approach is a unique, feasible, and effective approach to unintended adolescent pregnancy programs. “The community detailing approach could be a useful complement to programs for preventing unintended adolescent pregnancy.”

The study’s primary outcome measure was LARC use among sexually active female high school students as identified by responses on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Statistics’ Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS).

YRBS data were examined for the years 2013, 2015, and 2017, spanning the period before and after the LARC initiative was begun. A separate question about LARC use wasn’t included in the 2013 YRBS survey, so the investigators used a generous estimate that two-thirds of respondents who reported using the “other” contraceptive category for that year were using LARCs. That category was chosen by a total of 6% of respondents, and encompassed LARC use along with use of the patch, ring, diaphragm, and fertility awareness, explained Dr. Aligne and collaborators.

Addressing the problem of failure to use a condom with LARC use, Dr. Aligne and collaborators found overall low rates of dual-method use, but higher rates in Rochester than in the comparison groups. In Rochester, 78% of respondents reported that they also did not use condoms. This figure was lower than the 91% reported for the United States as a whole, and also was lower than the 93% reported in New York City and the 85% reported in New York state. No increase in sexually transmitted infections was seen in Rochester’s sexually active high school females during the study period.

“Our main finding of increased LARC use is consistent with the literature demonstrating that many sexually active young women, including adolescents, will choose LARC if they are given access not only to birth control itself, but also to accurate information about various contraceptive methods,” concluded Dr. Aligne and his associates.

A practical strength of the Greater Rochester LARC initiative was that it capitalized on existing resources, such as New York state’s preexisting program for free access to contraception and similar provisions in the Affordable Care Act. Also, local Title X clinics that were enrolled in New York’s free contraception initiative already had practitioners who were trained and able to provide same-day LARC insertion.

Pediatricians engaged in the initiative were able to receive free training from LARC manufacturers, as mandated by the Food and Drug Administration. Through collaboration with implant manufacturers, Rochester LARC Initiative staff were able to piggyback on training sessions to add education about contraception counseling and the importance of offering access to all contraception methods.

Taken as a whole, the LARC Initiative could be scaled up, wrote Dr. Aligne and his coauthors, a potential boon in the 21 states where qualifying individuals younger than 19 years of age are eligible for Medicaid reimbursement for family planning services. “Even though easy LARC access is far from universal, there are vast areas of the nation where cost need not be seen as an insurmountable barrier.” Dr. Aligne and coauthors also addressed the fraught history of reproductive justice in the United States, cautioning that universal LARC adoption was not – and should not be – the goal of such initiatives. “There is a history of reproductive coercion in the U.S. including forced sterilization of women of color; therefore, it is critical that LARC methods not be imposed on any particular group. On the other hand, LARC should not be withheld deliberately from adolescents who want it, as this is another form of injustice,” they wrote. “The goal should be to empower individuals to decide what is right for them in a context of social and reproductive justice.”

Using the nationally administered YRBS was a significant strength of the study, commented Dr. Aligne and his collaborators. “This allowed us to employ the study design of pre-post with a nonrandomized control group,” the investigators noted, adding that the “relatively rigorous” methodology reduced the risk of problems with internal validity, and also allowed comparisons between changes in Rochester and those at the state and national level.

However, the researchers acknowledged that the study was not a randomized trial, and there’s always the possibility of unknown confounders contributing to LARC uptake during the study period. Also, the YRBS is a self-report instrument and only includes those enrolled in school.

Dr. Aligne reported that his spouse received compensation for providing contraceptive implant insertion training, as did two coauthors. The LARC initiative was supported by a grant from the Greater Rochester Health Foundation.

SOURCE: Aligne CA et al. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2020 Jan 22. doi: 10.1016/j.ajog.2020.01.029.

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