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ss triple helix - Christmas 2010,  More quangos for the bonfire?

More quangos for the bonfire?

Time for some truly independent advisors

Among the quangos due for dissolution are the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group (TPIAG) and the Independent Advisory Group on Sexual Health and HIV (IAGSH). Since TPIAG was set up in 1998 to halve the national under-18 conception rate by 2010, it has put most of its efforts into the promotion and provision to teenagers of the very contraceptives which, when they fail, then constitute the commonest reason for requesting abortion. The IAGSH (March 2003) equally adopted an ideological approach which consistently ignored evidence-based practice, such as studies indicating that abstinence-only education programmes can reduce both teenage conception, abortion and STI rates. (1) (2)

The IAGSH published many inaccuracies. In September 2003, they claimed those who took a US 'abstinence pledge' were 'at higher risk of STIs…because they have often had little or no information about contraception and safer sex'. (3) Not only was no evidence presented to support the reason given, but even the purported 'higher risk' of STIs was not shown by the actual research which consistently showed lower rates of STIs (though not statistically significantly so) among pledgers. (4) A more recent study has since confirmed the lower STI rates in another type of abstinence programme. (2)

The membership of both TPIAG and IAGSH raises questions about their independence from the contraceptive and abortion industries. The vast majority of members had declared interests in these fields. Baroness Gould, the chair of both, was President of the fpa and chaired a pro-abortion lobby group in Parliament. Like Baroness Gould, many of the members of one of these 'independent' groups were also members of the other; (5) whereas there were no representatives at all with any experience of alternative strategies such as the highly successful ABC programmes in Uganda (6) or Love for Life (7) programmes in Northern Ireland, where teenage pregnancy and STI rates are far lower than in England, Wales and Scotland.

If indeed 'wisdom is vindicated by its outcomes' (8) Christians need to pray that those bodies taking over from these two failed quangos will indeed be independent and have some fresh approaches. We might see some improvements by investing in encouraging primary behavioural changes such as later age of first intercourse and greater parental involvement with teenage sex education. Let's start introducing what we know actually works, instead of wasting yet more millions on what does not.

  1. 1 Cabezon et al. J Ad Health 2005;36:64-9
  2. 2 Jemmott JB et al. Efficacy of a Theory-Based Abstinence-Only Intervention Over 24 Months. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med 2010;164(2):152-159
  3. 3 Accessed 4 Nov 2010
  4. 4 Bearman PS and Bruckner H. Promising the Future: Virginity Pledges and First Intercourse. American Journal of Sociology, Vol 106, 4 (January 2001): 861-2
  5. 5 .uk/en/Publichealth/Healthimprovement/Sexualhealth/ DH_075232. Accessed 4 Nov 2010
  6. 6 Genuis SJ and Genuis SK. Primary prevention of sexually transmitted disease: applying the ABC strategy. Postgrad Med J 2005;81:299-301
  7. 7
  8. 8 Luke 7:35
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