Wash U Program Aims to Prevent Pregnancy in Foster Girls

Nearly half of all girls in Missouri's foster care system are pregnant or give birth before age 19. That's a lot of babies facing challenges from their first breath of life -- many of these girls and young women are aging out of the system without health insurance of their own or a reliable safety net.

So a new program at Washington University aims to provide these girls and young women with tools to prevent unwanted pregnancies and be better stewards of their own sexual health.
The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative kicks off with five years of funding from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. According to a press release from Wash U, the program will serve about 600 girls and young women.

"We will use a proven program with these young women to help them prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases," says Dr. Katie Plax, an adolescent medicine specialist at St. Louis Children's Hospital, in a press release.

Dr. Plax is heading the program, along with Kimberly Donica, the executive director of Project ARK, an outreach program for women and children living with HIV. They'll reach out to their constituents through social services programs already in effect in St. Louis city and county, centralizing services at The SPOT, a drop-in teen health center run by Plax at Washington University Health Center.

The program includes a video and meetings with a sexual health counselor  and follow-up session at one, three and six month intervals. They'll receive comprehensive sex eduction with information about condom use and harm reduction strategies. They'll also be able to participate in the Contraceptive Choice Project, a Wash U study that provides them with free contraception.

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