Tested Effectiveness of REAL Essentials

Relationship education, in general, has an impressive and growing body of research pointing to its effectiveness. To date, 25 peer-reviewed studies show statistically significant evidence of positive behavioral impact for students with all levels of sexual experience. REAL Essentials demonstrated significant delay in sexual initiation in two of these programs.

Earle School District

The Earle School District in Arkansas used the REAL Essentials curriculum. Since the start of the program in 2001, teen pregnancy in the senior class dropped from 1 in 2 girls (2001) to 1 in 10 girls (2009). Participants in the Long Island Teen Freedom Program who were instructed in the REAL Essentials curriculum were nearly 3.5 times more likely than average to delay sexual initiation 12 months after participating in the program. In Pueblo, Colorado the Pueblo Youth Project has been implementing REAL Essentials to their largely Hispanic population of students. Here are the results from their work:

The exact effect of the REAL Essentials curriculum on Pueblo's teen pregnancy rate is hard to assess due to other sex education programs, survey confidentiality, evaluation costs, and the varying degrees of REAL Essential programming implemented at each school. However, teachers and parents surveyed disclosed that REAL Essentials has had a substantial impact on teen behaviors, and student survey results confirm this. In 2012, 227 randomly selected high school students at South High, County High, and District 60 schools were given follow-up surveys if they had attended a REAL Essentials session in the last 4 years. The results of the surveys are:

  • 99% reported the session had a positive effect on their sexual behaviors
  • 63% said they postponed sex due to the skills they learned from REAL Essentials
  • 32% said they used protection due to REAL Essentials
  • 23% said they reduced their number of sexual partners to one partner

Teens who received REAL Essentials programming were substantially less likely to have had sex (compared to Pueblo Averages published by Pueblo County Health Consortium (PCHC 2007).

  • 24% of 9th graders reported having had sex versus 42% Pueblo average
  • 46% of 10th graders reported having had sex versus 54% Pueblo average
  • 47% of 11th graders reported having had sex versus 61% Pueblo average

REAL Essentials high school students (age 15-19) are 17% less likely (than Pueblo averages) to be sexually active after the program.

Weld County, Colorado 

Prior to the REAL Essentials curriculum being implemented in Weld County, a baseline data set was reviewed and recorded by the Weld County Health Department. A five-year community saturation approach was utilized for implementation. That means that each year another segment of the community was trained, and the program then implemented in a wider variety of settings that served adolescents creating a community saturation approach. At the end of the five-year period, with no other teen pregnancy initiatives being implemented in the county, teen pregnancy was reduced by 25%. Monetizing that reduction for costs related to teen labor and delivery expenditures, county officials reported that the county saved $4,457,932 dollars over the 5-year project. This development was written up as a ROI case study and is available upon request.

Future Studies

Currently a Random Control Trial Study is underway in 14  high schools in Colorado. Seven schools are the program intervention schools and the other seven schools are the control group. Contracted data collection teams will be collecting data pre-programming, 30 days immediately following the intervention, 6 months, 9 months and 12 months after programming is completed. Information will be analyzed, a report will be written and published in a peer-reviewed journal and the research team will present findings at no less than two scientific conferences. We will be reporting preliminary findings at select time intervals. The quantitative and qualitative data will then be analyzed by the IRB approved research team at the University of Denver, a report will be submitted for review and the results will be published in a peer-reviewed journal article. Following that activity, the researchers on the project will be disseminating the results nationally at scientific conferences and health education events.


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