Sexual Health Education Helps Protect Youth

Article excerpt

Hawaii's communities benefit when our youth have the knowledge, skills and resources to make healthy decisions about their sexual and reproductive health.

Ninety-seven percent of Hawaii residents believe that it is important to include sexual health education in our public school curriculum, according to a 2012 SMS Research Survey.

Because we have not yet committed the resources to ensure that our young people grow up sexually safe and healthy, Hawaii has the 17th-highest rate of teen pregnancy in the U.S. Each year, more than 1,500 teenage girls give birth in Hawaii.

Women who give birth in their teens and their children face many challenges. At age 22, only half of teen mothers have graduated from high school compared to 90 percent of their peers who did not give birth as teens. Eighty percent receive Temporary Assistance to Needy Families Benefits during the 10 years following the birth of the child.

The children of teen parents fare less well in school. They score lower on standardized tests of reading and math, are more likely to repeat a grade and are less likely to graduate from high school than their peers. They have a higher rate of emergency room visits, are more likely to have chronic health conditions and have a higher rate of child abuse and neglect.

All of this costs Hawaii taxpayers $37 million dollars a year, 71 percent of it in state and local costs.

How well are Hawaii public schools doing in teaching sexual health? …