SAN DIEGO COUNTY: Efforts May Reduce Teen Birth Rates
Efforts by San Diego County to reduce teen pregnancies may be working, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Although California's teen birth rates are still among the highest in the country, they are slowly decreasing across the state, especially in San Diego, where the rate has fallen from 45.5 births per 1,000 girls ages 15-17 in 1992 to 29 births per 1,000 girls in 1998. In addition to increased contraceptive use among teens, local officials attribute the decline to a "multipronged approach" used by San Diego County schools, social service agencies and law enforcement officials. A teen pregnancy group sponsored by Sharp Memorial Hospital has been particularly effective in its mission to prevent second pregnancies among teens. Paula Cruz, who leads the group, said the program teaches participants "to be conscious, think for themselves." Although she has no hard evidence, Cruz said, "Of girls who come to the group, I know instinctively and anecdotal that we have lower rates of secondary pregnancy." In light of studies showing that two-thirds of teenage girls ages 17 and under are impregnated by men over age 18, the county also has stepped up efforts to prosecute statutory rape. San Diego is one of 16 counties involved in a 1995 state program that funds special prosecutorial units. Of the 193 men prosecuted by the unit and later convicted, 16% received prison time and 84% were sentenced to probation. According to officials, 102 of the cases involved teen pregnancies. Despite the success, officials are grappling with some "troubled areas," such as the teen pregnancy rate among Latinas, which is "significantly higher" than that of other ethnic groups in the county (Rother, San Diego Union-Tribune, 2/20).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.