MONTEREY COUNTY: Peer Mentors to Spread Teen Pregnancy Prevention Message
To help reduce Monterey County's teen birth rate -- one of the highest in California -- a Monterey County Health Department project trains teens to encourage their peers to "put off having sex until they are financially and emotionally ready to handle parenthood," the San Jose Mercury News reports. While teen pregnancies in the state and nationwide have declined, the county's teen birth rate is higher than both the state and national average. The project, called Postpone, was started in 1996 with help from a $210,000 annual grant from the California Department of Health Services and community contributions. Postpone aims to prevent teen pregnancies and promote the involvement of young men in supporting their children. As part of the project, teenagers talk to classes and individual students about birth control, pregnancy and STDs. The mentors undergo 30 hours of training and then have weekly meetings with instructor Gary Rodriguez, a counselor at Planned Parenthood of Salinas. Rodriguez said that getting "accurate information to teens is the key," adding, "They are more likely to listen to their peers than adults, and we want them to be able to give the right information." Travis Stuart, a health teacher at Alisal High School and a project adviser, said that the peer mentors "have learned the subject and are confident." The health department also has created a teen pregnancy prevention poster featuring a teenage girl and her baby with the message: "I wasn't planning on having sex, it just happened. Just once." English and Spanish versions of the posters are being placed at kiosks, on buses and in schools. Rodriguez pointed out that many teenagers hold a "common belief" that they cannot get pregnant the first time they have sex. Bettye Lusk, Seaside High School principal, said of the project, "Education about pregnancy and abstinence would allow our students to responsibly make better choices to reach their career goals" (Hammond, 2/17).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.