North Carolina’s teen pregnancy rate fell 7% in 2016, marking a record low for the state for the ninth consecutive year, according to new data provided by the North Carolina State Center for Health Statistics and released by SHIFT NC (Sexual Health Initiatives For Teens). Statewide, 9,255 girls ages 15-19 experienced a pregnancy in 2016.
The 2016 teen pregnancy rate was 28.1 per 1,000 15-19-year-old girls. In other words, the newly released data shows that only 2.8% of 15-19-year-old girls in North Carolina experienced a pregnancy in 2016.
With this new decline, the state’s teen pregnancy rate has fallen 73% since it peaked in 1990.
Other highlights from the newly released data include:
- Reduced pregnancies among girls of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, helping to shrink some historical disparities. Pregnancies to white, black, and Hispanic teens dropped 9%, 8% and 4%, respectively. Despite those improvements, teen pregnancy rates among African-American and Hispanic teens remain twice as high as those among white teens.
- 65% of counties saw teen pregnancy decrease in 2016.
- Nationwide, researchers have attributed teen pregnancy declines to increased use of birth control, increasing usage of highly effective birth control methods like IUDs and implants, and a slight increase in the average age when teens first engage in sexual intercourse. North Carolina communities have focused on facilitating these trends.
State Facing Cuts to Services
The newly released teen pregnancy rates come as federal funding cuts threaten progress. In July, the Office of Adolescent Health announced that they would end a series of teen pregnancy prevention initiatives two years ahead of schedule.
Designed to provide more than 70,000 youth at risk for unplanned pregnancy with proven health education and youth development programs by 2020, the initiatives are now scheduled to end in June 2018.
“The dramatic reduction in teen pregnancies has been one of North Carolina’s biggest health successes,” said Traci L. Baird, CEO of SHIFT NC. “Cutting these programs has the potential to undo some of the progress – and leaves young people vulnerable in the long run.”
Congress has also considered eliminating the federal Title X program, which helps teens and other low income people access birth control and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Researchers estimate that the teen pregnancy rate would be approximately 40% higher without the Title X program.
According to Baird, “We owe so much of our success to young people who are continuing to make smart choices about their health. One of the best moves we can make is to continue working to them with the education, healthcare, and support they need to grow up healthy - and to keep this momentum going.”