TEEN PREGNANCY: Counties Show Declining Rates
"Teen birth rates in Sacramento County and most surrounding counties dipped in the last few years, a promising trend that follows state and national figures," the Sacramento Bee reports. Between 1994 and 1996, teen births in Sacramento County dropped 14%; between 1995 and 1996 El Dorado County rates dropped nearly 21%, while Placer's dropped 19% and Yolo's dropped 17%. "We still have high caseloads," said El Dorado public health nurse Sue Stillings. But teen birth rates for minorities "took some of the sharpest dives, pleasing those who have targeted those populations," the Bee reports.
Not Just Saying No
While health officials can only theorize about what has caused the declining rates, most cite "improved public service messages that are more meaningful to targeted age groups; increased focus on educating boys; heightened AIDS awareness; and widely available, low-maintenance birth control methods." The Bee reports that "teen pregnancy prevention is broadening from harping on the pitfalls of teenage sex to offering more comprehensive ways of improving a child's self-esteem and ability to make decisions." In addition, $39 million in Healthy Start grants are being given annually to 1,000 schools "to improve education opportunities in disadvantaged neighborhoods." And another "$10 million state grant" is being "divided annually among 460 schools for teen pregnancy prevention programs" (Enkoji, 3/9).
More Teen Moms
Today's San Francisco Chronicle also takes a look at teen pregnancy, putting a human face on the problem. California has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the country, "the result of a combination of factors: its multiethnic population, one of the worst education systems in the country and the highest rate of children living in poverty," the Chronicle reports. The article profiles several teen mothers in an attempt to understand "the relentless trend of girls who forsake their childhood by getting pregnant." The article cautions that experts are predicting an "onslaught in teen pregnancy" as the state's adolescent population is predicted to increase 34% by 2005 (Chiang, 3/8).