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N.C.'s Teen Pregnancy Rate Hits Record Low; Experts Promoting Proven Strategies to Continue Trend

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N.C.’s Teen Pregnancy Rate Hits Record Low; Experts Promoting Proven Strategies to Continue Trend

DURHAM, N.C. (October 18, 2010) – North Carolina’s teen pregnancy rate fell to a record low in 2009 according to new data released on Monday.  Teenage girls ages 15-19 in North Carolina had 1,256 fewer pregnancies in 2009 than in 2008. 

The new data, compiled by the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS), shows that 56 of every 1,000 teen girls ages 15 to 19 became pregnant in 2009. The new rate reflects a 4.4% decrease from the 2008 rate of 58.6 per 1,000 girls.

Teen pregnancy rates in North Carolina have consistently decreased since 1991 following a spike in the late 1980s. Pregnancy rates fell across all age, racial and ethnic categories, as well as in all but 37 North Carolina counties. Abortion rates also decreased in all categories.

Despite the positive trend, significant disparities still exist between racial and ethnic groups. The pregnancy rate among white teens was 45.4 per 1,000 girls, while the corresponding rate for minority teens was 74.3. The rate specifically for Hispanic teens was 118.4. North Carolina’s underserved rural counties typically saw higher rates of teen pregnancy than urban counties.

While the drop in teen pregnancy rates has mimicked national trends, North Carolina still lags behind the rest of the nation. The latest state rankings by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy show North Carolina has the 14th highest teen pregnancy rate.

Targeted Efforts Proving Successful

Experts credit the increased use of targeted evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs as one cause of the improvement in pregnancy rates. Evidence-based approaches are rooted in behavioral research and have been proven effective through rigorous evaluations.

“We’re seeing the payoff from the North Carolina General Assembly’s strategic investment in proven programs to help our most needy counties lower their rates,” said Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) Executive Director Kay Phillips.

The Coalition for Families in Lee County uses funds from the N.C. Division of Public Health’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiatives (TPPI) to implement the Teen Outreach Program. The program teaches pregnancy prevention strategies to high-risk Hispanic teens and incorporates community service and educational field trips to college campuses. The program has helped Lee County reduce its Hispanic teen pregnancy rate by more than 34% and its overall rate by 20.6%.

Davidson County has had similar success using the Making Proud Choices curriculum and the Teen PEP peer education program in schools. The partnership between N.C. Public Health, Thomasville City Schools and Communities in Schools of Thomasville has contributed to a 16.6% drop in Davidson County’s teen pregnancy rate.

More Resources on the Way

New state policies and federal investments are expected to help North Carolina communities leverage the state legislature’s investments and continue the positive trend.

This year, North Carolina public school students will benefit from the new Healthy Youth Act. The law requires schools to provide 7th, 8th, and 9th graders with medically accurate information on STD prevention, pregnancy prevention and healthy relationships.

“We are pleased with the momentum we are gaining in lowering our teen pregnancy rates,” State Health Director Jeff Engel said. “The new law will allow us to continue to improve our pregnancy rates and also focus on STD rates, which are an increasing problem among young people.”

In September, the federal government awarded a series of major grants to help North Carolina further reduce its teen pregnancy rate. N.C. Public Health will receive two federal grants to focus on rates in high-need counties and on supporting pregnant and parenting teens. More than 28% of North Carolina teen pregnancies occur in girls who have already had a baby. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also awarded $5.8 million to APPCNC to implement one of the nation’s first community-wide pregnancy prevention initiatives in Gaston County. In most cases, federal grant rules bar the use of these funds to replace current state or private funding.

“These new tools give us the momentum we need to create a serious drop in teen pregnancy rates,” said Phillips. “It’s crucial that we use this opportunity to leverage state funding, the targeted federal funding and the Healthy Youth Act to maximize outcomes for North Carolina teens.”

For additional information:

Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina: www.appcnc.org

NC Division of Public Health’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiatives: www.teenpregnancy.ncdhhs.gov

2009 Pregnancy Statistics: http://www.schs.state.nc.us/SCHS/ or www.appcnc.org/statistics

 

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT:  Elizabeth Finley, Director of Strategic Communications, efinley@appcnc.org, Office: (919) 226-1880, Mobile: (919) 749-7309

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