07/02/12 — Wayne teenage pregnancy rate decreasing

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Wayne teenage pregnancy rate decreasing

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on July 2, 2012 1:46 PM

Teen pregnancy will probably always be a concern, local officials say, but thanks to collaboration among agencies in Wayne County and an increase in educational efforts, there is a "positive trend" in reducing the number of teenagers having babies.

"We're getting better," said Carolyn King, health education supervisor at the Wayne County Health Department. "We're getting closer to the state (rate), so we definitely are improving, there's no doubt about that."

According to Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention of North Carolina, the state is ranked 14th in the U.S. for its teen pregnancy rates. The state rate reflected an 11 percent drop since 2009, and officials said teen pregnancy rates have gone down more than 50 percent since they peaked in 1990.

The latest figures, for 2010, updated in December 2011, reported 15,957 pregnancies in the state among 15-19-year-olds. The rate -- per 1,000 girls in that age range -- statewide was 49.7. Broken down by race and ethnicity, it was 70.2 for African Americans, 82.7 Hispanic and 34.4 white.

Wayne County, meanwhile, had 276 teen pregnancies for that age range reported during 2010. The county's rate per 1,000 was 67.7, or 86.6 for African Americans, 89.2 Hispanics and 47 for whites. The rate is down 1 percent from the previous year.

The county is ranked 12th in the state, tied with Wilson and Beaufort.

Comparatively, in 2008, Wayne County was ranked 27th in the state, with 294 pregnancies reported among 15-19-year-olds.

The reason for the gap in such a short time can be attributed to how the data is gathered, Mrs. King explained.

"You may have one county that greatly improves so that (puts) us in another rank," she said. "But I think all in all if you look at their trend statistics -- trend data is really better data."

To illustrate, she gave a quick comparison to several previous years' worth of pregnancy rates.

Between 1994 and 1998, for example, the state rate of pregnancies per 1,000 girls 15-19 was 86.7; in Wayne County, it was 96.5. From 1999 to 2003, the state rate dropped to 69.3; Wayne likewise dropped, to 86.4.

"And then from 2004 until 2008, the N.C. rate was 61.7 and our rate was 76.3," Mrs. King said. "We don't have 2009 to 2011 trend data because that's not out yet.

"I think if you look at our rates, you can see that we're making progress."

One reason, she suggests, is because a growing number of people and agencies are addressing the issue.

"I think that young people are more knowledgeable today. We also have the comprehensive sex education .... education on abstinence as well as contraception, school-based health centers, WISH, WATCH, the Health Department, our family planning program along with private providers out there," she said.

"This is a subject that I think Wayne County has never shoved under the carpet but yet it's a very sensitive issue because it affects people and sometimes it can be a very hurtful subject. And we're all about helping people not hurting them."

A long-time health educator, Mrs. King said she sees many educators and others in the health care profession "putting their arms around" young people every day.

That willingness to look out for the next generation can go a long way toward making a difference, even in teen pregnancy prevention.

"This county would get an A-plus in collaboration where this subject is concerned," she said. "I think the bottom line is the ultimate goal is to help young people achieve their goals in life and to help them to have a better future."

An educational summit is planned in July for local agencies that work with women and youth.

"Prevention ... Intervention ... Success" will be held July 12 from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. at the WAGES office on Royall Avenue, sponsored by the Teen Pregnancy Task Force of WATCH, or Wayne Action Teams for Community Health.

"We want to bring together different organizations that work with women and young populations, different settings such as Boys and Girls Club and Wayne County Public Schools, overall to provide the opportunity to connect to as many resources and have participants to share resources with other organizations that work with youth and teens in the Wayne County area," said Vandora Barrett, health educator with WATCH.

The event is being funded through a $900 state grant from RICHES, Resources in Communities Help Encourage Solutions.

The free workshop is open to those who work in any capacity with young women and youth.

"We just want to provide the opportunity for them to come together and share as far as resources and programs to get here in Wayne County as far as different organizations and concepts," Mrs. Barrett said.

Presenters will include Rovonda Bradford, eastern regional coordinator for the March of Dimes, speaking about the high school curriculum/prevention program; Makita Jenkins, assistant principal for Greenwood Middle School, and D.J. Coles, substance abuse health educator for WATCH, on the intervention program; DeAndria Williams, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., speaking about "The Gents" program for young males; and Ta-Kisha Darden, health education specialist with the Health Department, sharing about its "Parents Matter!" program.

"My hope is that (participants) leave knowing that there are more resources out there in the community, or that there are other organizations out there, people that they can get in contact with and just bounce off ideas and even come together and create other types of programs," Mrs. Barrett said.

Deadline for registration is July 6. For more information, contact Mrs. Barrett at (919) 587-4125 or email vandora.barrett@waynehealth.org.