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For Immediate Release

SAFE Study Presents Innovative Counseling Approach Designed to Reduce Teen Pregnancy and STD's

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh researchers are studying whether one-on-one counseling coupled with computerized feedback is more effective than standard counseling at reducing unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases (STDS) among young women.

Developed by a research team led by Melanie A. Gold, DO, a pediatrician in the Division of Adolescent Medicine at Children’s, the innovative counseling approach being tested by the SAFE Study differs from standard counseling in the more egalitarian relationship it creates between counselor and patient. Standard counseling entails giving people information and advice but does not usually include partnering with them in deciding what changes to make in their behavior.

Participants in the SAFE Study will receive three counseling sessions over six months, and then will return every three months for an additional year. Researchers believe those who have computer-assisted motivational intervention (CAMI) sessions, in which they receive personalized feedback about pregnancy and STD risk and create individualized sexual health plans, will have fewer unintended pregnancies and STDs than those who get standard high-quality information and advice.

The Sex Abstinence Feedback and Education (SAFE) Study concept is designed to help young women feel more comfortable putting sensitive information about sexual history and substance use into an objective format. This allows counselors to spend more time counseling and less key time gathering information.

“Most contraceptive and STD counseling is a one-way flow of information and is not the most effective way to help young women make safe decisions about their lives,” Dr. Gold said. “If our hypothesis is correct, health educators all over the country may be affected by the results.”

Over the next five years, 660 young women ages 13 to 21 from the Pittsburgh area will receive counseling on abstinence, contraception and STDs. Half of those young women will participate in three comprehensive educational sessions to teach them what they need to know to make important decisions about issues like abstinence and birth control. The second group will receive three CAMI sessions, where they will work collaboratively with a counselor on their goals, values and how to change their behavior to reach those goals.

In 2000, the teen pregnancy rate in the United States was almost twice as high as in Canada, and three times higher than other industrialized nations, according to the Family Health Council, which provides health care services to more than 100,000 women and families throughout western Pennsylvania. The council also reported that 1 out of every 20 teen-agers in Pittsburgh became pregnant in 1998.

The five-year, $2.2-million study is funded through a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and is designed to test the effectiveness of the Computer-Assisted Motivational Intervention (CAMI). For more information about the SAFE study or to enroll please call 412-692-6386.

Melanie Tush Finnigan, 412-692-5016,
Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-5016,

Last Update
February 20, 2008
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Last Update
February 20, 2008