Sarah Brown, the CEO of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, announced last week that she’s stepping down after 20 impressive years and the board has started a search for her successor. Let me just say: Sarah is a hard act to follow.
In founding the National Campaign, Sarah created an organization that has been inventive, strategic, and just plain successful—whether you’re talking about its policy work, media partnerships, or direct outreach to young people.
The policy work has included, among other efforts, support for federal funding of evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs, which exemplify sound use of taxpayer dollars and have set a precedent for science-based government funding. This is well documented in the 2013 report co-authored by my colleague Daniel Stid, “What Does It Take to Implement Evidence-based Practices? A Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Shows the Way.”
The media partnerships, which stretch across the TV dial and many online outlets, famously include 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom. The National Campaign has used partnerships with these shows to bring responsible parenting messages to MTV’s big audiences—messages with so much punch that they’ve been cited as major factors in the dramatic decline in teen pregnancy after the show’s introduction.
The Campaign also has been pioneering in its creation of Bedsider.org, a made-for-twenty-somethings web portal with a growing reach that provides information about birth control along with a dose of fun. Studies of Bedsider.org’s effects on users’ knowledge and use of clinical services hint at its tremendous promise as a way to engage and educate young people.
All of these complementary efforts, and the other work the National Campaign has done over the years, have contributed to what President Obama was referring to in his State of the Union Address earlier this week: “We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely, we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care that she needs.” Those are precisely the goals the National Campaign has worked so hard to achieve, and they have managed to do it—even in this day and age—with bipartisan support.
Sarah is one of this country’s most ardent champions of making birth control accessible to young people, but what I admire most is that she is simultaneously committed to a cause and to evidence. That’s a rare thing. Sarah’s not in it for the passionate speechifying or the ideological fight. She knows how to look at facts, analyze current conditions, and focus energies where they will make the greatest difference. She has built a team and an organization that’s in it for the results: the brightest future for the next generation.
That’s a pretty terrific legacy.