Imagine this: The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) decides to put together a Web site to help parents talk to their children about a number of issues, including sex. HHS needs help finding content to populate the site with reliable information about contraceptives and sexually transmitted diseases. Who should they reach out to for help?
Maybe HHS should turn to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the National Institute of Health (NIH)? Logical choices. Or maybe HHS would contact major medical societies dedicated to teen health, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics or the Society for Adolescent Medicine?
But no, instead HHS decides that the National Physicians Center for Family Resources (NPCFR) will do just fine. What is NPCFR? No, it’s not a government agency dedicated to scientific research, and no, it isn’t a well-respected major medical society. NPCFR is a nonprofit entity based in Alabama and California best known for rejecting NIH conclusions on condom effectiveness (NPCFR called the findings “medical malpractice”) and for advocating the link between abortion and breast cancer (despite major scientific studies and expert groups having reached the opposite conclusion).
And what would a site put together by HHS and NPCFR look like? Well you no longer have to imagine this scenario, because if you visit www.4Parents.gov you’ll get a nice picture of what their collaboration produced. Here you will find inaccurate information on sexually transmitted diseases and the effectiveness of contraception; discussions that misstate the relative risks of different types of sexual behaviors; and language that ostracizes single parents and the LGBTQ community.
4Parents.gov has been in the spotlight since its unveiling in March, and last week Representative Henry Waxman (D-CA) sent a letter to HHS outlining problems that national experts in infectious disease, adolescent sexuality, reproductive health, and adolescent development had identified on the site.
Parents need help talking about sex with their children. It certainly isn’t an easy task. They need reliable information and guidance. However, HHS, with its 4Parents.gov site, decided that ideologically based information was more important than the health and safety of teens. Go figure.