Interview: Sarah S. Brown

Issues in Science and Technology, Spring 2005 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Interview: Sarah S. Brown

Sarah S. Brown is director of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, a nonprofit, non-partisan initiative she helped created in 1996 to improve the well-being of children, youth, and families by reducing teen pregnancy. As she explains in the following interview, the campaign played a critical role in a remarkably successful effort that reduced by one-third the number of pregnancies and births among teenage girls. This experience can serve as a model and an inspiration for other public health programs.


A specialist in women's and adolescent health, Brown has worked in the public health sector for more than 30 years. Before cofounding the campaign, she served as senior study director at the Institute of Medicine, where she directed a range of maternal and child health projects, including The Best Intentions: Unintended Pregnancy and the Well-Being of Children and Families, a widely cited study of the probable causes, effects, and possible remedies of unintended pregnancy. Brown has served on the boards of the Alan Guttmacher Institute and the District of Columbia's Mayor's Advisory Board on Teenage Pregnancies and Out-of-Wedlock Births. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Irvin M. Cushner Lectureship Award from the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, the Institute of Medicine's Cecil Award for Excellence in Research, and the Martha May Elliot Award of the American Public Health Association.

Why was the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy organized, and what made you think this progress was possible?

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy was organized in 1996 by a diverse group of individuals who had concluded that the problem of teen pregnancy was not receiving the intense national focus that it deserved; that too few Americans understood the central role that teen pregnancy plays in child poverty, out-of-wedlock childbearing, and welfare dependence; and that there was merit in raising the profile of this problem and in pushing hard for solutions. At its first meeting, the National Campaign's board defined the organization's mission: to improve the well-being of children, youth, and families by reducing teen pregnancy. The board also set a numerical goal for the nation and the National Campaign: to reduce the rate of teen pregnancy by one-third between 1996 and 2005.

Most observers considered this goal--to put it charitably--overly ambitious. Because rates of teen pregnancy spiked upward during the mid- and late-1980s, there were many who felt that this nation's high rates of teen pregnancy were inevitable and intractable. Our reading was a bit different. Taking a longer view, we saw that rates of teen pregnancy and birth had been declining slowly but steadily (more or less) for over two decades, with the exception of this late-1980s blip. Consequently, we believed that teen pregnancy rates could again start heading in the right direction, provided that the issue received the national attention it deserved.

What strategy has the National Campaign used?

The National Campaign's strategy is based on a straightforward concept: Reducing teen pregnancy can be accomplished only by fewer teens being sexually active and/or by better use of effective contraception among those who are. Both behaviors contributed to earlier declines in teen pregnancy, and more of both are needed in going forward to sustain the decline. All of the National Campaign's efforts center on affecting these two behaviors by communicating directly with teens themselves or by influencing intermediaries that research has shown influence the sexual behavior of teens.

The organization's strategy works on two main fronts: building a more coordinated and effective grassroots movement in states and communities and influencing social norms and popular culture. In all of our work, we engage a range of sectors--teens, parents, state and community leaders, entertainment media executives, educators, faith leaders, policymakers, the press, other national nonprofit groups, and more.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Interview: Sarah S. Brown


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?