N.C.’s Teen Pregnancy Rate Hits 30-Year Low; Experts Credit Evidence-Based Prevention Strategies
DURHAM, N.C. (October 15, 2009) – North Carolina’s teen pregnancy rate fell to a 30-year low in 2008 according to new data released on Thursday. Teenage girls in North Carolina had 217 fewer babies in 2008 than in 2007.
The new data, compiled by the NC Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS), shows that 58.6 out of every 1000 teen girls ages 15 to 19 became pregnant in 2008. The new rate reflects a 7% decrease from the 2007 rate of 63 per 1000 girls. A small portion of this decrease can be attributed to a change in the way the state demographer calculates total population.
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 25 North Carolina counties. Abortion rates also decreased in all categories.
While teen pregnancy rates declined across the board, significant disparities still exist between racial and ethnic groups and between rural and urban residents. The pregnancy rate among white teens was 47.8 per 1000 girls, while the corresponding rate for minority teens was 77.7. The rate specifically for Hispanic teens was 147.5. North Carolina’s underserved rural counties typically saw higher rates of teen pregnancy.
Evidence-Based Strategies Credited
Experts credit the trend toward targeted implementation of evidence-based approaches to pregnancy prevention as one cause of the improvement in pregnancy rates. Evidence-based approaches are rooted in behavioral research and have been evaluated for proof of their effectiveness.
“North Carolina has been smart to leverage investments from the General Assembly and the Centers for Disease Control to bring proven pregnancy prevention strategies to North Carolina,” says Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) Executive Director Kay Phillips. “This new data shows that we are headed in the right direction, and that we must keep pressing forward so that more communities can benefit from these tools.”
The Anson County Partnership for Children has positively impacted their teen pregnancy rate by implementing the Adolescent Parenting Program (APP), a program created by NC DHHS’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiatives to reduce the number of repeat teen pregnancies. Repeat teen pregnancies account for approximately 30% of teen pregnancies each year. APP increases the self-sufficiency of young mothers, and has a multi-generational impact by improving the long-term health and success of both mother and baby. Twenty-nine sites in 27counties have implemented the APP program and only 1.6% of APP enrollees statewide had a repeat pregnancy. Due in part to APP, Anson County’s teen pregnancy rate fell by 32.9% in 2008.
Chatham County has reduced their teen pregnancy rate by 26.3% by leveraging both state and private funding available to host Plain Talk, a nationally recognized and replicated promising program. Used for the past four years by nonprofit Chatham County Together, Plain Talk is a neighborhood-based initiative that teaches adults how to communicate effectively and comfortably with youth about health and personal responsibility.
“Keeping these programs strong – and offering them in more communities – is crucial to maintaining a positive trend in our pregnancy rates,” said Phillips. “We must not let these programs get lost as state and local dollars get harder and harder to come by.”
Phillips also expressed excitement for the new opportunity presented by the passage of the Healthy Youth Act by the North Carolina General Assembly. The Healthy Youth Act removes restrictions on local school boards that limited the number of evidence-based sexuality education curricula schools could use. Starting in the 2010-2011 school year, local school boards will be able to choose from a broad range of evidence-based curricula that cover abstinence as well as comprehensive sexual health and relationship topics.
With the release of today’s statistics and the continued expansion of evidence-based approaches, North Carolina’s teen pregnancy prevention experts are confident the state will see continued declines in teen pregnancy rates.
For additional information:
Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina: www.appcnc.org
NC DHHS Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiatives: www.teenpregnancy.ncdhhs.gov