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A national organization, the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, selected the Pono Choices program for a Maternal Child Health best practice award earlier this year. Based in the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa College of Education’s Center on Disability Studies, Pono Choices is a sex education curriculum for middle school students designed to reduce teen pregnancies and the spread of sexually-transmitted infections.

From 2012–13, 34 schools across the state participated in a study regarding implementation of the curriculum. An external evaluation of Pono Choices, led by IMPAQ International, found that students who learned through the 10-module program had much higher knowledge retention than students who participated in other programs.

“We’d like to send a big mahalo to the schools that participated in the Pono Choices research study,” shared Tammy Tom of the Center on Disability Studies. “We set out to provide educators and parents with tools to help students better understand and retain the sexual health lessons, which go beyond sexual health. They provide the foundation for attitudes about oneself and respect for others.”

Pono Choices was successfully developed and tested on a large scale in Hawaiʻi with participation and support from principals and teachers as well as consent from parents and students. The data showed the lessons worked, and students retained knowledge about sexual health.

“Our goal is to educate students for real-world situations. This national recognition is an example of working together to create impactful educational tools that provide students the knowledge and skills to mature academically and developmentally.” College of Education Dean Nathan Murata said.

UH co-developed Pono Choices with Planned Parenthood and ALU LIKE with funding from the federal Office of Adolescent Health. Guiding the development process was an advisory committee that included representation from the state Departments of Education and Health, and the Hawaiʻi Youth Services Network.

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