By Janeen Gingrich, Interim CEO
Every year, the month of May is designated as National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month (NTPPM) to celebrate the progress made in teen pregnancy prevention across the country. Teen birth rates have declined dramatically over the past two plus decades and are at historic lows.
The extraordinary declines in teen pregnancy and childbearing prove that progress can be made on tough issues. In fact, few social problems have improved quite as dramatically over the past 20 years as teen pregnancy. Since the early 1990s, teen pregnancy and birth rates in the United State have declined by 55% and 64% respectively and are now at record low levels.
In recognition of National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month this May, we reflect on the progress the nation has made and the challenges that remain:
- Since peaking in 1991, the U.S. teen birth rate has declined 64% and rates are down in all 50 states and among all racial/ethnic groups.
- Since the inception of the Office of Adolescent Health Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program in 2010, teen birth rates across North Carolina have declined 35%.
- Despite historic progress, significant disparities remain.
- Teen birth rates are almost twice as high among Hispanic and non-Hispanic black teens as among non-Hispanic white teens.
- Teen birth rates remain about one-third higher in rural areas than in urban areas.
- Rates remain disproportionately high among vulnerable youth, including youth living in out-of-home care, LGBTQ youth, and parenting teens.
Despite these powerful numbers, too many teens still think, “It can’t happen to me.” The resources we provide at SHIFT NC help teens understand that they can control their futures and avoid risky behavior. We want teens to understand that they have the power to decide if, when, and under what circumstances to become pregnant and that they need to think seriously about what they would do in a stressful moment of peer pressure.
Ideally young people can rely on their parents, factually accurate sex education, and a medical provider to get their questions answered about sexual health. Too often, though, their answers come from a quick Google search, friends, significant others, or the media – and those answers can be far from truthful.
One tool we created at SHIFT NC to bridge this gap is our BrdsNBz Text Line, which provides confidential, medically-accurate information for questions via text message. A young person simply texts a question and a trained health educator responds within 24 hours, but it’s usually MUCH quicker! To date, the service has been used in eight states and received more than 8,000 questions to improve young people’s access to accurate sexual health information.
The BrdsNBz Text Line is an invaluable texting service option for young people aged 13-18 who have questions about sexual health and relationships, and just one way SHIFT NC is bringing innovation to our programming to reach young people where they are. We’re excited to continue to grow and enhance our capacity for improving adolescent sexual health in North Carolina and the country.
When teen pregnancy rates go down, opportunities go up. Join us this May to support National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month! Click here for tips and tools you can use during the month!