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Lucas County teenage pregnancy rate climbs

Many NW Ohio areas see rise in numbers

TEEN-PREGNANCY

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Lucas County's teen pregnancy rate increased slightly after declining for two consecutive years, and several other northwest Ohio counties also had jumps even as the overall state rate declined, according to the state's latest estimates.

While Lucas County had the seventh-highest rate of teen pregnancies among counties statewide in 2009, down from fifth-highest the year before, it tied for second statewide on the rate of pregnancies in the 10-to-14 age group, according to the Ohio Department of Health's latest statistics.

In 2009, the county had 37 pregnant females aged 10 to 14, for a rate of 2.5 per 1,000.

That rate was the same as Marion County's and less than a half percentage point below the state's highest rate in the 10-14 age group: 2.9 per 1,000 in Pickaway County, according to the statistics.

The overall teen pregnancy rate in Lucas County was 42.5 per 1,000 females, up from 42.3 per 1,000 in 2008. There were 1,316 pregnant Lucas County females aged 10 to 19 in 2009, up from 1,307 in 2008, according to state statistics.

"The fact that they're up is disturbing," said Dr. David Grossman, health commissioner of the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department.

Dr. Grossman said the key with pregnancies among the youngest girls is to watch whether a trend develops.

A few pregnancies can cause the rate among 10 to 14-year-olds to fluctuate -- there were 28 in 2008 and 37 in 2009 -- but there may be a need to introduce sex education in lower grades or find another way to address the problem, he said.

Statewide, the rate of teen pregnancies continued to drop. There were 25,466 pregnant Ohio teens in 2009, a rate of 33.3 per 1,000, according to the state.

In northwest Ohio, Allen County again had the second-highest teen pregnancy rate behind Lucas County. Allen County's teen pregnancy rate was 40.7 per 1,000 females in 2009, up from 37.6 in 2008, according to state statistics.

Other northwest Ohio counties besides Lucas and Allen had an uptick in their teen pregnancy rates.

Defiance, Erie, Hancock, Ottawa, Paulding, Putnam, and Williams counties all experienced teen pregnancy rate increases in 2009, according to state statistics.

Area counties with teen pregnancy rate declines, meanwhile, included Fulton, Henry, Huron, Sandusky, Seneca, Van Wert, Wood, and Wyandot.

Ottawa County has not had a concentrated effort to teach pregnancy prevention in its school districts since 2007, when government funding ended after about a decade, said Nancy Osborn, commissioner of the Ottawa County Health Department. The health department received about $60,000 a year for the program before funding ended and has been unable to secure replacement money, Ms. Osborn said.

Ottawa County's teen pregnancy rate was 26.8 per 1,000 females in 2009, up from 25.3 in 2008, according to state statistics.

There were 65 pregnant teens in Ottawa County in 2009, including 43 who were aged 18 or 19, up from 58 in 2008, statistics show.

"I guess it doesn't surprise me that three years later, there's been no program and we're seeing an increase," Ms. Osborn said. "It isn't a huge increase [numerically], but statistically speaking, it is."

She added: "It's good that we're not seeing huge increases in the 10 to 14-year-olds and the 15 to 17-year-olds."

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: jmckinnon@theblade.com or 419-724-6087.

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