North Carolina Teen Pregnancy Rate Plummets to Historic Low
Evidence-based programs and increased contraceptive use create major impact
Durham, N.C. (December 7, 2011) – North Carolina’s teen pregnancy rate plummeted last year to the lowest level in the state’s history, according to new data released on Wednesday. The 11% drop also represents this single biggest year-to-year drop ever.
The 2010 pregnancy rate for North Carolina girls ages 15-19 was 49.7 out of every 1,000 15-19 year old girls. In other words, fewer than 5% of 15-19 year old girls in the state got pregnant last year.
The positive news comes on the heels of an October report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that shows dramatic increases in contraceptive use among teens. The report, a part of the National Survey for Family Growth, also shows that U.S. teens who have never had sex are now in the majority for the first time in the survey’s nearly 30 year history.
“North Carolina has gotten smarter about investing in comprehensive programs that are proven to help young people avoid sex and be responsible about contraceptive use when they eventually become sexually active,” says Kay Phillips, Executive Director of the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC). “Now we’re seeing the payoff, and it’s great news for North Carolina.”
In 2009, legislators changed the state’s sexual health education requirements to more closely align with evidence-based practices and parent opinion. The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiatives in the state’s Division of Public Health has also maintained effective programs to help high-need areas address teen pregnancy. These investments helped organizations across the state secure more than $35 million in federal grants over a five-year period to accelerate progress.
The 2010 teen pregnancy rate means North Carolina has cut its rate in half since it peaked in 1991. The reduction has resulted in a savings of more than $7.7 billion to North Carolina taxpayers.
Targeted Efforts Shrink Disparities
Historically, teen pregnancy has disproportionally affected minorities, girls in rural counties, and girls who have been pregnant before. The new data shows those disparities are shrinking.
Teen pregnancy rates fell among all racial and ethnic groups, and gaps between those groups are narrowing. The teen pregnancy rate for white girls fell 24% to 34.4 per 1,000 15-19 year olds. The rate for African-American girls fell 10.5% to 70.2. Hispanic teens, however, saw the biggest drop in rates with a 30% decrease from 118.4 in 2009 to 82.7 in 2010.
Gaps between rural and urban counties are also narrowing. For the first time, no county had more than 10% of 15-19 year old girls get pregnant in 2010. Onslow County had the highest teen pregnancy rate at 86.6 per 1,000 15-19 year old girls. Watauga County had the lowest rate with 9.9, and is the first county in North Carolina to have fewer than 1% of teen girls get pregnant in a single year.
Girls who have been pregnant before are generally at the highest risk of pregnancy. These pregnancies – called repeat pregnancies – were down 5.3% since 2009 and now comprise only 27% of the state’s teen pregnancies.
Advocates stress that this is a time to build on efforts rather than scale back.
“North Carolina’s combined strategy of helping at-risk teens break the cycle of teen pregnancy while providing all young people with basic education and care has given us incredible results,” said Phillips. “Continuing to provide effective education and medical care is the only way we can continue to see these kinds of results.”
While North Carolina has made strong progress, the state still has the 14th highest teen pregnancy rate in the United States. In January, advocates will formally announce a ten year goal to reduce teen pregnancy by 30% by the year 2020. The goal is meant to help advocates at the state and local levels redouble efforts to prevent teen pregnancy in harder-to-reach populations.
County rankings, rates by race/ethnicity, historical trends: http://appcnc.org/statistics
National Survey of Family Growth: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_23/sr23_031.pdf
NC State Center for Health Statistics: http://www.schs.state.nc.us/SCHS/data/vitalstats.cfm
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