Comprehensive, school-based sex-education programs that teach teens about contraception and encourage them to delay sexual activity increase condom use and lower the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases including HIV, according to a panel appointed by the CDC.
But the panel concluded there isn’t enough evidence to endorse programs focused more narrowly on encouraging sexual abstinence until marriage.
The 15-member Task Force on Community Preventive Services reached these conclusions after reviewing 83 studies of such programs that were run between 1980 and 2007.
“Evidence and common sense have returned to public-health policy,” James Wagoner of Advocates for Youth told the Washington Post. “The report endorses a comprehensive approach to prevention that includes condoms and birth control. We should be spending taxpayer dollars only on evidence-based programs.”
Alas, 2 panelists, Irene Erickson of the Institute for Research and Evaluation and Danielle Ruedt of the Georgia Governor’s Office of Children and Families disputed these conclusions.
According to them, “the data indicated that many types of [comprehensive] programs do not work. Unfortunately, the report’s conclusion ignores these findings. This is misleading to policymakers who are seeking evidence-based programs, especially for schools.”
Answering these claims, panelist Randy Elder, who also works for the CDC, argued that the critics’ case was incorrect.
“Those points…reflect a misunderstanding of a systematic review process,” he said. “The whole point of what we are doing is to aggregate data from many studies that are critical to answering the question. What they were doing was chopping up the evidence into fine subsets to poke holes.”