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King County Executive
Dow Constantine


After King County’s lawsuit win, Trump administration restores sex-ed research funding

Summary

Following a successful lawsuit against the federal government, King County now has sufficient funds to proceed with important sexual health education research. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services delivered the $1 million contract originally awarded to King County for a scientific study as part of the nationwide Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program.

Story

After U.S. District Court Judge John Coughenour ruled on May 29 that the Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) failed to adequately explain why it cut King County’s funding to study the efficacy of its FLASH sexual health education program, HHS has reversed course and approved the $1 million.

“We stood up for youth -- and their teachers who depend on effective curriculum about sexual health -- and we won. It’s shameful that we had to take the administration to court to get HHS to do its job, but now that we have the funding, we can move forward with important research that has the potential to improve the lives of millions of young people,” said Executive Dow Constantine. 

“It was clear from the start that the Trump-Pence Administration’s attempt to undermine bipartisan investments to reduce teen pregnancy was absolutely wrong-headed and would be damaging to efforts to promote the health and wellbeing of young people, not only in King County but in communities across the country,” Sen. Patty Murray said.

 

“I’m glad that King County is getting this year’s funding, which is needed for this evidence-based program to help reduce teen pregnancy and increase our understanding of how to effectively get young people the information they need to make healthy decisions,” she said.

 

The current research is testing the impact of the FLASH curriculum on high school students' ability to delay sexual activity and to protect themselves from pregnancy and STDs. Study participants include 3,000 students at 20 participating schools in the Midwest and South.

FLASH is produced by the Family Planning program at Public Health – Seattle & King County and is available to educators everywhere. It’s currently used in every school district in King County, across much of Washington state, and in at least 40 other states. While it is based on the latest research and evidence, the full curriculum has never been evaluated for its effectiveness.

In fact, it’s rare for any sexual health curriculum to receive scientific evaluation because conducting such a study is both complex and expensive.

That's why Congress created the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) in 2010. TPPP funds 81 grants nationally, including King County's $5 million evaluation, with $1 million annually. Last year, the federal government abruptly canceled the funding midway through the research, threatening to undermine the entire study. Without the funding received this month, three years of work would have been wasted.

“We believe passionately in giving our youth all of the factual information that they might need to make healthy decisions,” said Patty Hayes, Director of Public Health—Seattle & King County. “Our youth – and our taxpayers – deserve education based on facts and on evidence of what works.” 

The evaluation will be particularly welcome by school districts across the nation, which frequently face arguments and debates about sexual education in public schools – along with pressure to adopt unproven ideological-based sexual health programs. Evidence about what works is more important than ever.

During the initial three years, the FLASH grant received superlative reviews from HHS staff.

Quality sexual health education is likely one key part of the reason the teen birth rate has been dropping dramatically – and why the rate in King County is now one of the lowest in the nation – 2.5 times lower than the national rate.


Relevant links


Quotes

We stood up for youth -- and their teachers who depend on effective curriculum about sexual health -- and we won. It’s shameful that we had to take the administration to court to get HHS to do its job, but now that we have the funding, we can move forward with important research that has the potential to improve the lives of millions of young people.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

It was clear from the start that the Trump-Pence Administration’s attempt to undermine bipartisan investments to reduce teen pregnancy was absolutely wrong-headed and would be damaging to efforts to promote the health and wellbeing of young people, not only in King County but in communities across the country. I’m glad that King County is getting this year’s funding, which is needed for this evidence-based program to help reduce teen pregnancy and increase our understanding of how to effectively get young people the information they need to make healthy decisions.

Patty Murray, U.S. Senator 

We believe passionately in giving our youth all of the factual information that they might need to make healthy decisions. Our youth – and our taxpayers – deserve education based on facts and on evidence of what works

Patty Hayes, Director of Public Health - Seattle & King County

For more information, contact:

Alex Fryer, Executive Office, 206-477-7966


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography