Optimal Health for Montana Youth (OHMY)
The Adolescent Health Section (AHS) houses four teen pregnancy prevention programs that promote and implement several curriculums in public schools, tribal communities, juvenile detention centers and foster care settings. These evidence-based and innovative curriculums focus on the following objectives:
Educate teens about a variety of health topics, including:
- What constitutes a healthy relationship
- Health risks associated with STDs and HIV/AIDS
- Protective factors in high-risk situations
- Peer pressure
- Alcohol/Drug use
- Dating/Relationships/Sexual Violence
- Teen pregnancy prevention behavior
Teach teens valuable skills that they will take with them into adulthood, like how to:
- Establish personal boundaries
- Communicate effectively and actively listen
- Resist peer pressure and speak up for themselves
- Set long-term goals that drive healthy decision-making
Teenage pregnancy and child raising can have short- and long-term consequences. Cognitive, physical, and emotional development continues through adolescence, and teen pregnancy adds more strain to those developments. Adolescent parents face more challenges when it comes to pregnancy and raising a child. There are more health risks associated with teenage pregnancy. Teen mothers are more prone to anemia and post-partum depression, and their babies are more likely to be born prematurely. (For more information on all the health risks associated with teen pregnancy, click on WebMD link at the bottom of this page under “Resources”.) It is also more difficult for adolescents to manage all the new responsibilities of being a parent and remain emotionally healthy. They may become isolated from their friends and social circles because of criticism or the lack of free time. A majority of adolescent parents postpone or don’t pursue their goals and aspirations due to the responsibilities of parenting.
The OHMY program aims to provide youth with the knowledge, skills, and tools needed to help them focus on their future, make healthy decisions when it comes to having sex, set personal boundaries, resist peer pressure and speak up, and understand what constitutes a healthy relationship. It teaches teens how to better protect themselves from risky situations, unintended pregnancies, and put their health first.
Teens who engage in some types of risky behavior are more likely to engage in other behaviors that increase the risk for teenage pregnancy.1 Comprehensive sexuality education* curricula in school and community settings have been shown to reduce teen pregnancy and associated risky behaviors.2 OHMY has funding sources that encompass delivering ‘comprehensive sexuality education curricula’ through the Personal Responsibility Education program (PREP) and Montana Adolescent Health Program (MAHP), as well as Sexual Risk Avoidance Education that focuses on help youth acquire the knowledge and skills they need to become healthy and productive adults. It is important for Montana teens to receive non-biased education considering that:
- “In 2010, the teen birth rate in rural counties was nearly one-third higher compared to rates in the rest of the country, and rates in rural areas have been falling more slowly than rates in non-rural areas.”3
- 43.2% of Montana high school students have had sex at least once in their lifetime.4
- 31.6% of Montana high school students are sexually active.5
- From 2010 to 2016, the national birth rate declined by 51%, while Montana’s teen birth rate declined by only 33%.
- Montana’s teen birth rate is higher than the national average (23.7 per 1,000 vs 20.3 per 1,000).6
- Prevention of teen pregnancy requires broad-based efforts including evidence-based sexual health education, support for parents in talking with their children about pregnancy prevention and other aspects of sexual and reproductive health, and ready access to effective and affordable contraception for teens who are sexually active.7
*Comprehensive sexuality education is the process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs, and values about identity, relationships, and intimacy. It encompasses sexual development, sexual and reproductive health, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy, body image, and gender roles. (Adapted from www.siecus.org/.)
1 ETR Associates and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. A Matrix of Risk and Protective Factors Affecting Teen Sexual Behavior, Pregnancy, Childbearing and Sexually Transmitted Disease, November 2007.
2 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, TEEN PREGNANCY: Improving the lives of Young People and Strengthening Communities by Reducing Teen Pregnancy. At A Glance 2011.
3 Ng, A. S. & Kaye, K. (2015). Sex in the (Non)City: Teen Childbearing in Rural America. Washington, DC: Power to Decide (formerly The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy).
4 2016 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey, High School Results, MT Office of Public Instruction.
5 2016 Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey, High School Results, MT Office of Public Instruction.
6 MT Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) Office of Vital Statistics, 2016.
7 Hamilton, B.E., Martin, J.A., & Osterman, M.J.K. (2016). Births: Preliminary Data for 2015. National Vital Statistics Reports, 65(3), 1-15. http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr65/nvsr65_03.pdf
8 Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. (2004). Guidelines for Comprehensive Sexuality Education (3rd ed.). https://siecus.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/Guidelines-CSE.pdf
9 Eastman, K. L., Corona, R., & Schuster, M. A. (2006). Talking parents, healthy teens: a worksite-based program for parents to promote adolescent sexual health. Preventing chronic disease, 3(4), A126.