Initiative working to prevent teen pregnancies

J. H. Osborne • May 1, 2007 at 11:15 AM

It's that time of year: All across America teenagers are taking final exams as the school year draws to a close.

But a national campaign is asking teens to take one more quiz. It's available online, and its sponsors say it could make a world of difference to those who take it.

Today is National Prevent Teen Pregnancy Day.

The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy has a quiz at www.teenpregnancy.org that challenges teens to think about the potential consequences of sex.

Locally, the Sullivan County Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Initiative (SCAPPI) held its quarterly meeting Tuesday.

The group brings together members of various health care, education, volunteer, human services and ministerial organizations with a goal of exchanging resources and developing teen pregnancy prevention strategies.

Linda Brittenham is Tennessee Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program coordinator at the Sullivan County Regional Health Department.

Brittenham said first and foremost, SCAPPI wants to encourage conversations about teen pregnancy.

"We have to talk to our kids," Brittenham said, noting the topic includes emotional, economic and spiritual issues.

In 2005, 80 babies were born in Sullivan County to girls between 14 and 17 years old, Brittenham said. And for 12 of the teen moms, it wasn't their first pregnancy.

Nationally, teen pregnancy rates are coming down. But the United States still has, by far, the highest teen pregnancy rate of Western industrialized nations.

Teen pregnancy knows no political, socioeconomic or geographic boundaries across the county, Brittenham said.

According to information released by SCAPPI earlier this year, the breakdown of the 80 teen pregnancies in the county in 2005 was: age 14 - two; age 15 - 14; age 16 - 22; and age 17 - 42.

And of Tennessee's 95 counties, Sullivan County ranked 62nd in the number of teen pregnancies.

According to information from www.teenpregancy.org:

•Teen pregnancy and birth rates in the United States have declined by about one-third since the early 1990s.

•Even so, three in 10 girls in the United States get pregnant by age 20.

•Teens say parents most influence their decisions about sex.

•The United States still leads the fully industrialized world in teen pregnancy and birth rates - by a wide margin. In fact, the U.S. rates are nearly double those of Great Britain, at least four times those of France and Germany, and more than 10 times that of Japan.

•Between 1995 and 2010, the number of girls aged 15 to 19 is projected to increase by 2.2 million.

•About two-thirds of sexually active teens wish they had waited longer to lose their virginity.

•Despite a one-third decline in the teen birth rate since the early 1990s, teen childbearing in the United States cost taxpayers (federal, state and local) at least $9.1 billion in 2004, according to a new analysis released by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. The estimated cumulative public costs of teen childbearing between 1991 and 2004 totals $161 billion.

•Most of the public sector costs of teen childbearing are associated with negative consequences for the children of teen mothers. These costs include $1.9 billion for increased public sector health care costs, $2.3 billion for increased child welfare costs, $2.1 billion for increased costs of incarceration, and $2.9 billion in lost revenue due to lower taxes paid by the children of teen mothers over their own adult lifetimes. The $9.1 billion total also factors a variety of costs and savings associated with teen mothers and the fathers of their children.

•The U.S. teen pregnancy rate for teens aged 15 to 19 decreased 36 percent between 1990 and 2002. After reaching 117 pregnancies per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 in 1990, the pregnancy rate has decreased to 75 pregnancies per 1,000 females aged 15 to 19 in 2000. (Pregnancy data include births, abortions and miscarriages.)

Brittenham said the most recent figures available show Tennessee's teen pregnancy rate at 13.3 per 1,000 and Sullivan County's teen pregnancy rate at 10.4 per 1,000.

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