06/10/11 — Health Department to discuss teen health issues

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Health Department to discuss teen health issues

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on June 10, 2011 1:46 PM

Teen health is an important enough topic to warrant the Board of Health moving its meeting to draw a public audience.

The board, which typically holds a noontime meeting each month, voted to open it up to a community offering on Tuesday from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the main branch of Wayne County Public Library.

"We're going to get business done very quickly and then we're going to have presentations that we think the public will be interested in," said James Roosen, health director.

Keynote speakers will be Dr. David Tayloe of Goldsboro Pediatrics and Danny King of ADLA -- which stands for "A Lot of Direction, Love and Affection" -- a program for at-risk youths based in Mount Olive.

"It's just a very small step, but what we're attempting to do is get better public knowledge in terms of teen health," Roosen said. "What we're going to be focusing on is the financial hits that we take with teen pregnancy, out-of-wedlock births and STDs among teens in our state and nation."

The status of children's health in those terms has become a "huge issue," Roosen said, both locally and across the state.

"The last time I looked, believe it or not, about 40 percent of our clients in the STD clinic are teens," he said. "We want to make one step in this direction and see what happens."

Roosen said he would like to make inroads to help the public better understand some of the economic effects of teen pregnancy and how it affects Wayne County and North Carolina.

"What kind of difference would I like to see? I would like to see better education for these kids. I would like to see more support for these kids," he said.

Teen pregnancy rates have long been a concern in Wayne County, but it's admittedly a sensitive issue.

"When you talk about teenage pregnancy, this is a hurtful subject because it affects people," said Carolyn King, health education supervisor.

"I think no matter what you do around the issue, it's a subject that has affected families, individuals, and as much as we want to prevent it and make the life of a young person as good as it can be, it's a hard subject to talk about."

Roosen agreed that talking about unwed births and the ramifications for the child are controversial topics for many, but are nevertheless important.

"We're going to be sharing statistics that are emotional to a lot of our patients but unfortunately are a reality," Roosen said. "The main thing I'm trying to do is get information out there to get the public to come to a meeting.

"The cost isn't just dollars, the cost is the future of Wayne County (and) North Carolina, that's the cost."

The two speakers at Tuesday evening's session will shed some light on the topics, both from Dr. Tayloe's expertise in the field of child health and King's work with young teens.

"I think the average person out there is going to wonder, 'Why is this so important? Why is this coming up?'" Roosen asked, before almost answering his own question -- that it essentially stems from concern about children having children.

"The difference affects taxpayers' support. It does increase our taxes. It decreases the ability of the United States to compete with countries and kids who complete school and go to college that have a life that can be 100 percent (successful). The way that we compare with other countries is amazing. Our teen pregnancy rate is 4 to 10 percent higher than every European country."

Ideally, he said, the meeting will be an opportunity to broaden the discussion and gain public input.

"What I'm hoping to do is have a fairly short presentation and then open it up to the audience because that's going to give us a lot of information about what people think," he said. "The whole idea is there's a lot of things that we can do as a team countywide. It doesn't just have to be public health. It can be all the entities that we have -- everything from the school system, law enforcement, social services, the general public, everybody."

The health director said no matter the vantage point -- morality, religion or personal opinion on the subject -- it all boils down to addressing the best ways to create a better climate for future generations.

"The only thing that we're trying to do is help our kids achieve more in life," Roosen said. "This is a stepping stone that would really help in a lot of ways. ...

"It's just one step in a very long journey. We're not trying to get more kids on birth control. We're simply trying to educate the general public."