This issue’s spotlight is on Birth Control 4 You, (BC4U), a non-profit that provides free education, birth control, and medical treatment for teens. Funded through an anonymous donor, BC4U started in 2009 at the Children’s Hospital Colorado on the Anschutz campus in Aurora, and has since expanded to three more sites: Wheat Ridge, Colorado Springs, and Highlands Ranch.
With 8 full-time staff members, including a new health educator tasked with outreach and community engagement, BC4U has served almost 14,000 teens since its inception eight years ago. The program offers all forms of birth control and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections for teens aged 14 through 24. Though the majority of clients are girls 17 and over, five percent are young men. Almost half are young women of color, a group that is at higher risk for both pregnancy and STIs.
Teen pregnancy has been on the decline over the past decades, yet in 2014, the Colorado teen birth rate was 20.3 births per 1,000 teen girls (age 15-19), slightly lower than the national rate of 24 births per 1,000. Young women of color are 2-3 times likelier to experience an unintended pregnancy. Teen pregnancy affects the trajectory of a woman’s life profoundly. For example, only 38% of girls under 18 who bear a child graduate from high school.
But getting teens to feel comfortable to seek contraception and care for STIs is one of the biggest barriers to access. Across the country, teens may seek birth control and STI testing without parental knowledge or consent, but seeking care through the family doctor may result in insurance charges that would alert parents despite confidentiality rules. Organizations like Planned Parenthood and private organizations can offer an extra level of confidentiality for teens to make responsible choices.
BC4U’s website has a supportive, discreet and non-judgmental vibe, with lots of obtuse images that wouldn’t automatically draw the attention of prying eyes. “Extra SUPER SECRET DOUBLE Confidentiality,” announces a text box in small letters on the launch page.
In spite of their successes to date, the leadership at BC4U is not content to rest on their laurels. They currently have a multi-year training grant that has allowed them to establish a program to teach future medical providers who work with adolescent counseling and IUD and implant insertions. The American Association of Pediatrics changed their recommendations in 2014 to include IUDs and implants as the method of choice for sexually active teens due to their ease of use, yet most pediatricians and adolescent medicine practitioners have not been trained in inserting these devices. One study showed only a quarter of adolescent medicine clinicians were trained to insert IUDs, a number that would likely be even lower in pediatricians. Calls for addition of these trainings to the standard medical school curriculum have been tempered with acknowledgement of the barriers to current trainees, such as lack of hands-on training opportunities. Thus, this innovative program fills a major current healthcare gap.
From increasing community ties in at-risk groups to innovative provider training programs, the dynamic health providers at BC4U are working on all fronts to empower teens to make informed family planning choices. Liz Romer, Executive Director of BC4U, reassures girls in a video on the BC4U website, “…It’s not as scary as you think it’s going to be….Our providers go out of their way to make sure that you feel comfortable.”
For more information, or to donate to BC4U, visit their website, www.BC4U.org .
Gwen Murphy, PhD, is a freelance medical writer who has been a enthusiastic supporter and volunteer for women’s health for two decades. To learn more or to contact Gwen, visit her website, http://www.murphymedicalwriting.com, her blog, www.gwenmurphy.wordpress.com, or email email@example.com.
- Colorado data. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy website. https://thenationalcampaign.org/data/state/colorado. Accessed May 8, 2016.
- AAP Updates Recommendations on Teen Pregnancy. American Association of Pediatrics website. https://www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/pages/AAP-Updates-Recommendations-on-Teen-Pregnancy-Prevention.aspx. Published September 29, 2014. Accessed May 8, 2016.
- Shefali Luthra. Why Teen Girls Aren’t Using IUDs – A major reason: Many pediatricians were never trained on how to insert them. The Atlantic. http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2015/02/why-teen-girls-arent-using-iuds/385412/. Published February 12, 2015. Accessed May 8, 2016.
- Potter J, Koyama A, Coles MS. Addressing the challenges of clinician training for long-acting reversible contraception. JAMA Pediatr. 2015 Feb;169(2):103-4. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2014.2812.