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Highlights

Reducing the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies is one objective of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). HHS provides funding to states and organizations that provide abstinence-until-marriage education as one approach to address this objective. GAO was asked to describe the oversight of federally funded abstinence-until-marriage education programs. GAO is reporting on (1) efforts by HHS and states to assess the scientific accuracy of materials used in these programs and (2) efforts by HHS, states, and researchers to assess the effectiveness of these programs. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed HHS officials in the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) and the Office of Population Affairs (OPA) that award grants for these programs.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of Health and Human Services To address concerns about the scientific accuracy of materials used in abstinence-until-marriage education programs, we recommend that the Secretary of HHS develop procedures to help assure the accuracy of such materials used in the State and Community-Based Programs. To help provide such assurances, the Secretary could consider alternatives such as (1) extending the approach currently used by OPA to review the scientific accuracy of the factual statements included in abstinence-until-marriage education to materials used by grantees of ACF's Community-Based Program and requiring grantees of ACF's State Program to conduct such reviews or (2) requiring grantees of both programs to sign written assurances in their grant applications that the materials they propose using are accurate.
Closed - Implemented
In April 2008, an Administration for Children and Families (ACF) official reported that, in response to our recommendation, ACF began requiring in fiscal year 2007 that community-based grantees sign written assurances that the materials they propose using are accurate. This official also reported that grantees of the State Program were required to submit written assurances of the accuracy of the materials they planned to use starting in fiscal year 2008. ACF's fiscal year 2007 Community-Based Program announcement included the following assurance that applicants were required to sign, "I hereby attest and certify that all medical materials proposed in this application and funded during the project period of this grant are medically accurate". ACF's fiscal year 2009 State Program announcement stated that applicants were required to provide a plan to ACF on how they would ensure that program materials would be reviewed for medical accuracy. The program announcement also stated that, "should ACF find medically inaccurate information during the review process, or at any time during the grant project period, grantees will be required to correct the inaccuracies".

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