The following was written by Keith Seinfeld for Public Health Insider:
After U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour ruled on May 29 that the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) failed to adequately explain why it cut King County’s funding to study the efficacy of its FLASH sexual health education program, HHS has now approved the $1 million in funding.
As explained in a news release from King County Executive Dow Constantine, the current research is testing the impact of the FLASH curriculum on high school students’ ability to delay sexual activity and to protect themselves from pregnancy and STDs. Study participants include 3,000 students at 20 participating schools in the Midwest and South.
FLASH is produced by the Family Planning program at Public Health – Seattle & King County and is available to educators everywhere. It’s currently used in every school district in King County, across much of Washington state, and in at least 40 other states. While it is based on the latest research and evidence, the full curriculum has never been evaluated for its effectiveness.
In fact, it’s rare for any sexual health curriculum to receive scientific evaluation because conducting such a study is both complex and expensive.
That’s why Congress created the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) in 2010. TPPP funds 81 grants nationally, including King County’s $5 million evaluation, with $1 million annually. Last year, the federal government abruptly canceled the funding midway through the research, threatening to undermine the entire study. Without the funding received this month, three years of work would have been wasted.
“We believe passionately in giving our youth all of the factual information that they might need to make healthy decisions,” said Patty Hayes, Director of Public Health—Seattle & King County. “Our youth – and our taxpayers – deserve education based on facts and on evidence of what works.”
During the initial three years, the FLASH grant received superlative reviews from HHS staff.