How effective was England's teenage pregnancy strategy? A comparative analysis of high-income countries

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Teenage pregnancy is associated with numerous health risks, both to mothers and infants, and may contribute to entrenched social inequalities. In countries with high rates of teenage pregnancy there is disagreement on effective action to reduce rates. England's Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, which cost £280 million over its ten year implementation period, has been highlighted as an effective way of reducing pregnancies after rates fell by more than 50% from 1998 to 2014 and widely advocated as a replicable model for other countries. However, it is not clear whether the fall is attributable to the strategy or to background trends and other events. We aimed to evaluate the impact of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy on pregnancy and birth rates using comparators. We compared under-18 pregnancy rates in England with Scotland and Wales using interrupted time series methods. We compared under-18 birth rates and under-20 pregnancy rates in England with European and English-speaking high-income countries using synthetic control methods. In the controlled interrupted time series analyses, trends in rates of teenage pregnancy in England closely followed those in Scotland (0.08 fewer pregnancies per 1000 women per year in England; −0.74 to 0.59) and Wales (0.14 more pregnancies per 1000 women per year in England; −0.48 to 0.76). In synthetic control analyses, under-18 birth rates were very similar in England and the synthetic control. Under-20 pregnancy rates were marginally higher in England than control. Although teenage pregnancies and births in England fell following implementation of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy, comparisons with other countries suggest the strategy had little, if any, effect on pregnancy rates. This raises doubts about whether the strategy should be used as a model for future public health interventions in countries aiming to reduce teenage pregnancy.




Andrew J Baxter, M., Dundas, M. R., Popham, D. F., & Craig, D. P. (2021). How effective was England’s teenage pregnancy strategy? A comparative analysis of high-income countries. Social Science and Medicine, 270.

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