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Published: Saturday, 4/16/2005

Teen pregnancy prevention programs seem to work

BY ROSE RUSSELL

SOMETHING good is going on among the nation s teenagers, and Ohioans should be particularly pleased.

Teenage pregnancy rates are down, and the Ohio trend shows that the overall well-being of children is improved as a result.

Don t get too complacent, thinking the work of teaching young people that it s a bad idea to engage in sexual activity is finished. As long as those young hormones rage, the job is never over.

One in every three teenage girls in the United States still becomes pregnant, despite improved teenage pregnancy rates. The rates put this country first among similarly developed nations.

But an analysis of teen pregnancy prevention programs by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy should encourage efforts to continue teaching teens about the risks of sex.

The study shows that nationwide between 1991 and 2002, the teenage birth rate dropped 30 percent. In Ohio, it went down 35 percent.

The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department reported in 2002 that the rate of teen births for every 1,000 girls was 25.1, while the state average was 19.6.

For years, Lucas County maintained the notorious distinction of having the highest teenage pregnancy rate in the state. It was a burdensome label that the area never seemed to shake.

In 1999, the county finally ranked third among the state s metropolitan areas in teenage pregnancies. That s still high, but it demonstrates that efforts to address the problem have brought positive results.

A combination of factors probably have contributed to the declining rates of teen pregnancy.

Of course, the debate among educators, parents, faith-based operations, and Planned Parenthood as to whether abstinence-based programs work or whether it s best to provide teens with birth control products may never abate.

In recent years, however. more teenagers have embraced old-fashioned values and pledged abstinence until marriage.

Many of their peers, unfortunately, make no bones about being sexually active, and of course some use pregnancy and disease prevention tools.

No question about it: there s a price to pay for risky behavior.

Besides the most recognized result of teenage sex pregnancy other consequences include HIV, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases.

Some other effects of teen sex are not always at the forefront of discussions about the issue. Seldom does anyone talk about the emotional rollercoaster that teenagers may experience once they become sexually active, and seldom does anyone discuss the promiscuity that may result once they become sexually active.

In the meantime, among the additional positives due to the decline in teen pregnancy rates is the drop in child poverty, which is really good news.

For a clearer picture of the worth of pregnancy prevention programs, consider the following statistics. If the teen pregnancy rate had not dropped in Ohio between 1991 and 2002, here s what else Ohioans would shoulder:

Another 50,000 children would have been born to teenage mothers.

More than 21,000 additional children under 6 would have been living in poverty in 2002.

More than 19,000 additional children under 6 would have been in households headed by single mothers.

A 7 percent drop rate in the state s poverty rate for children under 6 in 2002 may not seem significant, but any improvement in the quality of the lives of our children is worth noting.

Furthermore, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy reports that in 2002 there was a 6 percent improvement in the proportion of children under 6 in homes with single mothers.

Sarah Brown, who heads the teen pregnancy prevention campaign, said state and national investments in teen pregnancy prevention pays.

Considering the improvements that the statistics show, she s right.

As this analysis clearly shows, preventing teen pregnancy is one of the most direct and effective ways states can reduce poverty and improve overall child well-being, she said.

Teenage pregnancy prevention is good for everyone involved, and a good way to continue achieving rates of improvement is to teach teenagers and other young unmarried adults to put off sex until marriage.



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