Policy & Practice


Birth-Control Education Drops

From 1995 to 2002, there was a shift in sex education programs away from providing instruction about contraceptive methods, according to a study published in the December issue of Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. The number of adolescent males who received any formal instruction about contraceptive methods dropped from 81.2% in 1995 to 66.2% in 2002. Among adolescent females, the proportion receiving any instruction in contraceptive methods fell from 87.1% to 69.9%. In the meantime, the proportion of adolescents who reported receiving only information about abstinence as part of formal sex education programs increased between 1995 and 2002. Among males, abstinence-only education increased from 9.3% to 23.8%, and it increased from 7.6% to 20.7% among females. Researchers from the Guttmacher Institute and Columbia University analyzed changes in adolescent reports of sex education from formal sources such as schools, churches, and community groups. The findings are based on data from the 1995 National Survey of Adolescent Males and the 1995 and 2002 National Survey of Family Growth.

New Hampshire Has Free HPV Vaccine

New Hampshire is the first state to offer the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine free as part of its universal vaccine program. The vaccine, Gardasil, will be available at no cost to girls aged 11–18 years. The vaccine was licensed by the Food and Drug Administration last June and the same month the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended vaccination with Gardasil. “The HPV vaccine represents a significant step forward in protecting the health and lives of the women and girls of New Hampshire,” John Stephen, commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services, said in a statement. “This represents a small victory in the battle against cancer, and we are thrilled to be able to offer this vaccine. We strongly recommend that all parents consider getting their daughters vaccinated.”

Examining Risks for Preterm Birth

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh-affiliated Magee-Women's Research Institute are beginning a study to examine how factors such as nutrition and inflammation affect preterm birth. The study also is expected to shed light on racial disparities in preterm births. The 5-year, $2.8 million study is funded by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, one of the National Institutes of Health. The researchers plan to enroll 1,200 women early in their pregnancies and collect information on diet, body mass index, and weight gain during pregnancy, as well as samples of blood and nails. “Preterm birth is a complex condition and this in-depth study of nutritional status and genetics is unique,” Dr. Hyagriv Simhan, the study's principal investigator, said in a statement. “Nutrition is something that lends itself to interventions to improve health.”

Equal Access to Fertility Treatments

Physicians have an ethical obligation to provide fertility treatment to all patients, regardless of their marital status or sexual preference, according to a report from the Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. The report was published in the November issue of the journal Fertility and Sterility. The committee determined that unless the individual or individuals would be unfit parents or the clinic does not provide the desired service, there is “no sound ethical basis for licensed professionals to deny reproductive services to unmarried or homosexual persons.” Committee members examined evidence on the welfare of children raised by unmarried parents or homosexual parents and did not find evidence of harm. “Children thrive in families where they are loved and cared for; and happy families don't need to conform to any one model,” Dr. Steven Ory, ASRM president, said in a statement. “This report from the Ethics Committee emphasizes how important it is for all people to have equal access to the help they need to have children.”

Poll Split on Off-Label Use

About half of Americans said physicians should not be allowed to prescribe pharmaceuticals for unapproved uses, according to a recent

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