Teen birth rates dropping

Madera County rates almost double California's rate

ttuell@sierrastar.comAugust 20, 2013 

California's teen birth rate is dropping and so is Madera County's according to health officials who are crediting the drop to education programs.

"California's innovative strategies and community partnerships aimed at lowering teen pregnancy are helping young women and men make responsible choices," said Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health ). "We must not be complacent — we must continue to promote teen pregnancy prevention programs and strategies in all communities."

According to a release by Chapman's department, the state's teen birth rate is down to 28 births per every 1,000 teens ages 15-19 — the lowest since 1991 when teen births peaked at nearly 71 per 1,000 teens.

Madera County's teen birth numbers have also dropped and are currently aggregated (2009-2011) at 54.6 per 1,000 for females ages 15-19 — almost twice as high as the state's number.

Rates per 1,000 live births among females aged 15-19 in Madera County over the last few years are as follows:

2009 — 59.3 per 1,000 births.

2010 — 56.7 per 1,000 births.

2011 — 48.1 per 1,000 births.

"We are thrilled to see the decreasing rates," said Van Do-Reynoso, director of Madera County Department of Public Health. "Our joint efforts with the Department of Social Services and school districts to prevent teen pregnancies continue to show positive results."

A release from Madera County Public Health stated that Hispanic teens aged 15-19 years old continued to have the highest birth rate at 60.2 per 1,000 teens, but they demonstrated a decline of 47%, down from 114.1 per 1,000 in 2001.

The number of births per 1,000 white teens also dropped from 30.9 to 23.5, a 24% decrease, and the number of births per 1,000 African American teens decreased from 29.8 to 25.5. There was no change among Asian or Pacific Islander teens in the county.

According to the state Department of Health, statewide Hispanic teens also have the highest birth rates at 42.7 per 1,000 (a decrease of 42%), followed by African American teens at 34.1, then white teens from at 11.2, and Asian teens at 5.3.

State health officials credit the changes to the state's programs and policies aimed at preventing teen pregnancy and improving outcomes in the case of teen pregnancies.

"One of the keys to preventing teen pregnancies is using evidence-based programs and creating opportunities for youth to lead healthy lives. Along with access to health information and services, our youth also need leadership, employment, and volunteer opportunities," noted Do-Reynoso.

Do-Reynoso said that in 2012, Madera County Public Health Department received a three-year grant to implement the Personal Responsibility Education Program (PREP). Do-Reynoso said the purpose of PREP is to educate adolescents on both abstinence and contraception using an evidence-based curriculum that have been proven to change behavior or reduce pregnancy among youth.

However, the PREP programs have only been implemented at Enterprise, Chowchilla and Easton-Arcola high schools, because funding for the programs specifies serving schools with student populations most at-risk for teen pregnancy.

In addition to the PREP program, Madera County Public Health Department operates two case management programs that focus on pregnant or parenting teens: Adolescent Family Life Program (AFLP) and Cal-Learn.

"Even though we had inadequate levels of funding from the state these past several years, the Madera County Public Health Department continues to support prevention programs to address teen pregnancy," said Do-Reynoso.

The state health department also noted the importance of community-based education programs. One such program is the non-profit Helping Hands Pregnancy & Parenting Center in Oakhurst, 40356 Oak Park Way off Highway 49.

Jill Althizer, Helping Hands executive director, said she hasn't really seen a change in the number of teen pregnancy tests they have done in the Mountain Area over the last few years.

"We all live in the world where music and movies and magazines promote sex a lot," she said.

Althizer said when female teens come into her office for a pregnancy test, they are offered information about their choices in life and the possible consequences of each choice. Helping Hands also offers abstinence programs to youth groups and they would like to be able to offer their program to schools. They also tell teen males of the consequences, including child support.

"We just hope they have all the information they need to make an informed decision," Althizer said. "We talked to freshman health class at Yosemite High School last year and would like to do more of that."

Do-Reynoso said that from 2009-10 through 2012-13, amidst decreased funding, Madera County's rate of clients with repeat pregnancies was well below the state rate. While the statewide repeat rate is 5%, Madera County's repeat teen pregnancy rate was 1 % or lower over the past three years.

For more teen birth data, visit the CDPH website at cdph.ca.gov/programs/MCAH/Pages/default.aspx.

Additional information about Helping Hands can be found at optionsandchoices.com, (559) 642-2229.

"California's innovative strategies and community partnerships aimed at lowering teen pregnancy are helping young women and men make responsible choices," — Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health

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