The provision of reproductive health services by school-based health centers: Policy Implications

Monday, 18 November 2013: 1:45 PM

Judith Herrman, PhD, RN
School of Nursing, University of Delaware, Newark, DE

Learning Objective 1: 1. Discuss adult stakeholders’ perceptions about the provision of reproductive health services by school-based health centers.

Learning Objective 2: 2. Explore how survey findings and study themes may inform local and national policies related to the promotion of responsible sexual behavior in teens.

Despite declines in rates, an overwhelming number of teen pregnancies are unintended and selected cohorts of teens experience higher rates of births and the associated consequences.  One component of promoting responsible sexual behavior in teens, and thereby reduce pregnancy rates, is to ensure access to contraception, condoms, and comprehensive, medically accurate information.  The provision of reproductive health services (RHS) by school-based health centers (SBHC) in the United States is the subject of much controversy.  Ideological differences about the role of schools in health care, the sexuality and sexual activity of youth, and the accessibility of selected interventions within the school and community frame this debate.  The purpose of this study was to provide a glimpse into the perspectives of key stakeholders on access to RHS in SBHC.  Fifty key informants participated in semi-structured interviews designed to determine adult perceptions about how such services are viewed and how these perspectives may impact policy and practice.  Sample members were selected using purposive and snowball methods and included school board members, SBHC staff, nurses, nurse practitioners, members of school administrations, parents, teachers, reproductive experts, and interested advocates.  To maintain fidelity to the intent of the participants, the principal investigator took detailed notes in the form of clauses during the interviews, expanded the clauses after each interview, integrated observational notes into these data, and notes were transcribed verbatim. Data was analyzed using the interview guide as a template and themes were identified as they emerged through recursive revisiting of the data.  Findings yielded ten overarching themes and revealed broad support for RHS in SBHC.  Variables such as conservative perspectives of teen sexuality, adolescent development, consensus building, nursing implications, and future steps to inform local and national policy are explored.