Access to Contraceptives in School-Based Health Centers: Progress and Opportunities

Published:December 15, 2021DOI:


      The U.S. has a higher adolescent pregnancy rate than other industrialized countries. School-based health centers can improve access to contraceptives among youth, which can prevent unplanned pregnancies. This cross-sectional study examines the characteristics and predictors of contraceptive provision at school-based health centers in 2016–2017 and changes in and barriers to provision between 2001 and 2017.


      In 2020–2021, the authors conducted analyses of the National School-Based Health Care Census data collected from 2001 to 2017. The primary outcome of interest was whether adolescent-serving school-based health centers dispense contraceptives, and a secondary outcome of interest was the policies that prohibit school-based health centers from dispensing contraceptives. A multivariate regression analysis examined the associations between contraceptive provision and various covariates, including geographic region, years of operation, and provider team composition.


      Less than half of adolescent-serving school-based health centers reported providing contraceptives on site. Those that provided contraceptives were more likely located in the Western and Northeastern regions of the U.S., older in terms of years of operation, and staffed by a wide variety of health provider types. Among school-based health centers that experienced policy barriers to providing access to contraceptive methods, most attributed the source to the school or school district where the school-based health center was located.


      School-based health centers are an evidence-based model for providing contraceptives to adolescents but not enough are providing direct access. Understanding the predictors, characteristics, and barriers influencing the provision of contraceptives at school-based health centers may help to expand the number doing so.
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