Big Decisions Evaluation Project

The OAH Tier 2B Big Decisions Study is a 5-year grant awarded by the Office of Adolescent Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Tier 2B Grant No. TP2AH000044-01-00) in several Texas border/rural school districts, including the Eagle Pass Independent School District and the San Felipe del Rio Consolidated Independent School District. The project will study the effectiveness of the abstinence-plus teenage pregnancy prevention curriculum (Big Decisions) created by Dr. Janet Realini, founder of Healthy Futures of Texas (HF-TX). The study will be implemented with 9th grade students and will focus on pregnancy and STI prevention as well as positive youth development.

The study is a randomized control trial comparing the 2 curriculum interventions. Classes within the district will be randomly assigned to receive the Big Decisions curriculum or the Big Decisions: Youth Voices curriculum. Healthy Futures of Texas requires that ONLY students whose parents want them to participate will be in the study. Healthy Futures of Texas will have an informed‐consent process for parent consent and for students to assent to participation.

The Big Decisions study curriculum includes:
Big Decisions is an “abstinence‐plus” sexuality education curriculum ideal for 8th and 9th grade students. The 10‐session curriculum includes medically accurate lessons on goals and dreams, healthy relationships, anatomy/reproduction, abstinence, refusal skills, contraception, and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). Big Decisions conforms to the Texas Education Code and has been approved and used in 20 Texas school districts.   In addition, Big Decisions includes a parent component, with 2 workshops for parents of youth.
•    Big Decisions: Youth Voices is the program component for students to participate in facilitated discussions about the issues facing today’s adolescents except that sexual health topics are not discussed. This program provides group sessions in which guided discussions encourage students to describe and share their perspectives. This component functions as the control group.

The HF-TX OAH Tier 2B Big Decisions Study management staff includes: the Principal Investigator, Dr. Janet Realini, the Project Director, Rene A. Gonzalez, the Project Coordinator, Monica Rivera, and the Project Trainer, Bethany Evans.  In addition, Philliber Research Associates (PRA), the study’s research partner has assigned Randy Burlew and Ashley Philliber, as staff for evaluation and research support; and Cardea Services, the study’s training partner has assigned Alfonso Carlon, Hector Campos and Stephanie Hebert, as training consultants.

Rene directs the day-to-day operations of the project, with assistance from Monica, and serves as the liaison to the OAH Project Officer, PRA, and Cardea as well as to the participating district partners, each of whom have designated a District Coordinator to oversee the implementation of the study and serve as a liaison to the HF-TX study staff.

The project period began on July 1, 2015, with the first year as a planning year.  Full implementation of the study will begin in the fall of 2016 and will be completed by June 30, 2020.