07/29/09 — County to parents: Talk to teens about pregnancy

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County to parents: Talk to teens about pregnancy

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 29, 2009 1:46 PM

Parents should be talking to their children about the realities of teen pregnancy, and the sooner the better, officials say.

Wayne County's pregnancy rate is currently 25 percent above the state average, said James Roosen, health director.

"Our rate for 2007 was 79.9 per 1,000 females, or about 8 percent, compared to the state's rate of 63.1 per 1,000, or 6.39 percent," he said. "That means we can expect about 8 percent of our girls to get pregnant."

Some "very important legislation" recently passed that may help with that, Roosen said.

State House Bill 88 gives parents the option to have their child taught comprehensive sex education starting in seventh grade, he said.

"Right now we do a curriculum that's called 'abstinence only,'" he said. "Comprehensive sex education would be a much more complete way of talking to kids about the realities of making the decision to have sex, how to resist peer pressure, the implications of having sex at an early age."

It would also cover the importance of birth control and how birth control works, he added.

"We don't really talk to kids about that," he said. "Talking to kids early is critical and we're not doing that."

By contrast, European countries do, he said, and their teen pregnancy rates are "one-fifth of what we have here in the United States."

The legislation provides parents with the option of allowing their child to receive instruction from health professionals that are already in the school system, Roosen said.

"I realize it's transferring a lot of work to the schools because now it's new curricula," he said. "The main thing is just talking to these kids about these realities."

Others are also recognizing the need for dialogue. Congressman G.K. Butterfield, in partnership with the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign for North Carolina, hopes to enlist support from parents, teens and community leaders to "empower them to serve as ambassadors in the fight for the prevention of teen pregnancy."

On Saturday, his office will host a free Teen Pregnancy Prevention Public Forum from 10 a.m. until noon at Goldsboro High School.

"We are trying to bring awareness to the fact that teen pregnancy in North Carolina and nationally is going back up on the rise," said Dolly Burwell, a director in the congressman's office. "Bringing together parents and community leaders and ministers and advocates and organizations that work with youth, we will have everyone to begin a dialogue again around teenage pregnancy. ... We want everyone to come together to try to bring some attention and foster more open dialogue about this issue."

Kay Philliips, N.C. Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign, will be the morning's keynote speaker. There will also be a question-and-answer session involving the audience, with representatives from area agencies and organizations sharing their efforts and ideas.

The notion of a public forum is valuable, said Vandora Yelverton, a health educator with the Wayne Action Teams for Community Health, or WATCH.

"This really is an important issue that needs to be death with," she said. "A lot of youths are starting early to make decisions about their body that they're really not ready for. We want people to know that we play an active role in helping their children as far as receiving the facts.

"This is a good community effort. ... If we start with the parents and go from there, I believe we will really get things done."

Pre-registration for the forum is encouraged. Forms are available by calling (252) 291-0356 or 1-888-874-9063.