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Program Failed To Curb Teenage Pregnancies in Phila.

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A family-planning program for Philadelphia teenagers did not achieve its goal of decreasing teenage pregnancy and childbearing, University of Pennsylvania researchers concluded after a three-year study.

The study evaluated the effects of a project called RESPECT--Responsible Education on Sexuality and Pregnancy for Every Community's Teens.

The six-year project was an expansion of family-planning services directed at teenagers, and included a publicity campaign designed to curb teenage pregnancy. A consortium of health-care agencies conducted the project, which was financed by the William Penn Foundation.

The results of the study were published in the March/April issue of Family Planning Perspectives, a journal of the Alan Guttmacher Institute in New York City.

The researchers conducted random telephone surveys of households with 14- to 18-year-olds in 1991. The family-planning project did not influence the use of clinics among the target population, change their knowledge and opinions about clinics, or reduce teenagers' sexual activity, the study found.

"The overall pattern of results does not support any sustained impact from the project," the authors conclude.

C. Richard Cox, the senior program officer at the William Penn Foundation who initiated RESPECT, said last week that the study's results were disappointing.

But he said the foundation would continue trying to solve to the problem of teenage pregnancy. "We're still looking for the answer, and society's still looking for the answer."

A school-based AIDS-education program for elementary school students can substantially boost their knowledge about the deadly disease without increasing their fears of it, a study in this month's issue of the journal Pediatrics concludes.

The results contradict the assertions of some theorists who argue that young children cannot understand the concepts related to AIDS prevention, write the authors from Yale University, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of California at San Francisco.

The study looked at 189 students in grades K-6 at a public school in New Haven, Conn. The students received a series of six 45- to 60-minute lessons over a three-week period. The curriculum was divided, with separate lessons for the K-3 and 4-6 grade levels.

The researchers found that the children understood the cause of AIDS at a conceptual level that put them at least two years ahead of their peers. The program also decreased their misperceptions about casual contact as a means of getting AIDS, which is transmitted through close sexual contact or other transmission of body fluids. The students retained much of that knowledge several months after the lessons were given, the authors found.

The federal Vaccines for Children program continues to suffer logistical delays that are preventing its full implementation.

As of last week, private health-care providers in 14 states were still not able to get the free vaccines provided under the program, federal officials said. The delays affect the small proportion of eligible poor children who see private providers and are not covered by Medicaid. They must temporarily visit a public hospital or clinic for the free shots.

Original plans called for the program, passed by Congress in 1993 and administered by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to be up and running in every state by last October. But a seven-month effort by federal officials to negotiate contracts with several pharmaceutical companies to distribute the vaccines to private providers proved unsuccessful.

Private physicians in 10 of the 14 states could have the vaccines this year, but those in Colorado, Louisiana, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania may not have them until 1996.

The Washington-based National Health and Education Consortium has published a resource guide, Starting Young: School-Based Health Centers at the Elementary Level. The authors describe it as a "what, why, and how" primer as well as a source of information on local, state, and federal support. Copies are available for $10 each, plus shipping and handling, from the consortium at the Institute for Educational Leadership, 1001 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Suite 310, Washington, D.C. 20036; (202) 822-8405.

--Millicent Lawton

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