The impact of an increase in family planning services on the teenage population of Philadelphia

Fam Plann Perspect. Mar-Apr 1995;27(2):60-5, 78.


In an assessment conducted 30 months after a Philadelphia-area project increased the resources that community family planning agencies devoted to teenage services, teenagers in targeted communities showed no generalized improvement in rates of pregnancy and childbearing, in knowledge or use of clinic services, or in attitudes toward contraception compared with those of teenagers in the entire city. Samples of adolescents aged 14-18 from the clinics' catchment areas and from the entire city were interviewed in mid-1988, when the project's activities began, and 2.5 years later. The results suggest that while community family planning clinics may provide effective services to the teenagers who seek them out, they may not be the most effective strategy for decreasing rates of pregnancy and childbearing in the overall teenage population.

PIP: An evaluation of community family planning services with adolescent services in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was conducted in 1988 and 1991. The new services aimed to increase the number of adolescent clients and to initiate adolescent educational outreach. 10,000 new patients were seen at clinics. The RESPECT program cost $2.5 million. The sample in Wave I (mid-1988) included 1256 teenager interviews and 966 parent interviews. In Wave II in 1991, 20% of teenagers interviewed in Wave I were interviewed and others added to yield 1181 teenage interviews and 1007 parent interviews. The total sample for analysis was 1961 teenagers. Age, race, and gender were different in the two waves. The results indicated that the desired effects of the RESPECT project were not observed over the time period. For example, the proportion of teenagers who had ever been to a clinic declined in the catchment area from 25% to 18%, while the city sample remained the same at 17-18%. The number of students in the catchment area who believed that school-based clinics should be established was greater than in the city sample. Knowledge of free contraception increased. The proportion sexually active remained stable, but the proportion having had sex in the prior 4 weeks had declined in both city and catchment samples. Differences in contraceptive use were apparent but were not statistically significant. The likelihood of teenage pregnancy increased slightly in both samples, which was consistent with national trends. Reported fertility was stable at 3% in catchment areas and increased from 2% to 4% in the city sample. Controlling for maternal age at first birth and marital status did not substantially change results. Pregnancy became greater in catchment areas. The conclusion was that the RESPECT project did not have a measurable impact on behavior, attitudes, and knowledge among the target population, but probably served the needs of teenaged users quite well. Teenaged clinics did not contribute to increased sexual activity. Research limitations included the small city sample, which could have distorted significant differences, the city-wide mass media campaign, and potential effects outside the target populations. The results may have been due to the limited scope of the clinics, too short a time frame, or the difficulties inherent in motivating teenagers. Future actions might focus on intensive public health campaigns, school-based health services, and population-level evaluations of teenage programs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adolescent Health Services / supply & distribution*
  • Contraception Behavior
  • Family Planning Services*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pennsylvania
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence
  • Sexual Behavior
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States