H.H.S. Urged To Proceed With Teenage-Sex Survey

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Washington--Twenty-five scientific and academic groups have asked the Health and Human Services Department to proceed with a study on the sexual behavior of adolescents that they say has been held up because of a long-running controversy over a separate study of adults.

In a letter this month to James Mason, the department's assistant secretary for health, the coalition said that hhs's decision to withhold funding for the National Institutes of Health-sponsored study of teenagers "sharply deviates from nih policy related to grants funding," because the study has already been approved by a peer-review panel.

Both studies are necessary, the4groups said, to provide data for designing programs to prevent the spread of aids and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Stacey E. Beckhardt, the government liaison for one of the letter's signers, the Consortium of Social Science Associations, said the project on adolescent sexuality was planned as a multi-year, multi-million dollar effort.

She said funding for the project has been blocked pending a decision by the department on whether to finance the survey on adults' sexual behavior.

More than a year ago, the Office of Management and Budget asked the department to review its initial support for the adult survey, which has drawn fire from politically conservative groups. Since then, the department has not said if it will back the study.

Christine Bachrach, a statistician at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development who is the program officer for the survey of adolescents, said thisel15lmonth that she could not provide details on the scope and methodology of the teenage project. But she said that Ms. Beckhardt's description of the internal debate preventing the program's funding was "essentially accurate."

According to Ms. Beckhardt, the study of young people is supposed to be national in scope and may include a survey administered to adolescents in schools.

C.D.C. Surveys

In a separate effort, the federal Centers for Disease Control has been surveying students in randomly selected school districts nationwide about their sexual practices and other behaviors that may put them at greater risk for aids and other health problems.

The questions on sexuality in the "Youth Risk Behavior Survey" recently prompted Florida's commissioner of education to order districts in that state not to participate in the survey in its current form. (See Education Week, April 18, 1990.)

The cdc is also planning to include approximately 11,000 to 12,000 youths nationwide between the ages of 12 and 20 in a forthcoming survey of U.S. households aimed at compiling national health indicators.

According to Marcie Cynamon, special assistant to the director of the division of health-interview statistics in the National Center for Health Statistics, the study will include such matters as condom use, alcohol and drug consumption, and seatbelt use.--ef

Vol. 09, Issue 35

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