Advocates Say Teen Pregnancy is a Social Issue that Impacts All of Us— Not Just Parents and Teens
Raising awareness about teen pregnancy prevention is spotlighted in May, but for devoted advocates, it is a year-round campaign.
Maria Marquina Butts-Fisher, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Manager for Healthy Start Coalition of Hardee, Highlands & Polk Counties, Inc., strives to step local efforts up even more every year in May, when it officially is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.
Spreading the word about statistics and giving out information is crucial, she says. The entire community needs to be on board and involved, she says, because this is not something that is important only to parents and teenagers.
“Teen pregnancy affects everyone,” she says. “When we can prevent teen pregnancy, we improve social outcomes such as poverty, and we increase graduation rates. We can prevent child abuse and neglect, and we can reduce such birth disparities as low birth weight.”
Statistics are affective attention-getters for this effort:
- Polk County is 15th highest out of 67 Florida counties in birth to teens under age 18.
- Teen pregnancies cost U.S. taxpayers $9 billion in 2013.
- Every day, four teen girls under age 18 give birth in Polk County.
How can members of the community support the campaign to prevent teen pregnancies?
“Educate yourself on how sexually transmitted infections are contracted, and the methods used to prevent them,” Butts-Fisher says. “As an adult, talk to your teens about sex and pregnancy. Be the first line of communication— and start the conversation early.”
The Polk County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Alliance (TPPA) is a great resource to help communities “join the conversation,” she says. Made up of people in the community from private businesses, public health, social services, law enforcement, schools and faith-based groups, it was formed in 1994 as an “action group” of the Healthy Start Coalition.
Its mission is to reduce the risk of pregnancy in Polk County through the collaboration of agencies and “empowerment of youth and community.”
“Polk TPPA is committed to creating an environment that supports parents and empowers youth to maximize their potential without the limitations imposed by pregnancy, childbearing, and parenting,” its mission statement says.
The group meets the first Thursday of every month, and everyone is welcome. Call 863-534-9224 for meeting locations.
There are community outreach programs designed to educate and encourage involvement, Butts-Fisher says says. “Attend free community events like the Annual Polk County Teen Summit, that addresses topics like teen pregnancy and STIs in a learning environment that makes learning fun and exciting.”
The Teen Summit will be held this year at Polk State College in Winter Haven, she says. “We will have a segment called ‘Doctors,’ where local doctors from the community will share about teen pregnancy and STIs.”
The event— and all events held by TPPA— is free and open to the public. For more information, visit the group’s website at http://www.healthystarthhp.org/teen-pregnancy-prevention-alliance/.
Key Facts About Teen Pregnancies
- Half of all pregnancies are unplanned.
- The teen pregnancy rate among black teen girls has declined 58 percent since 1991.
- As of 2015, the teen birth rate was 22 births per 1,000 teen girls (age 15-19). Since its peak in 1991, the teen birth rate declined by 64 percent.
- Roughly one in four teens get pregnant by age 20.
- Teen pregnancy and childbearing has declined in all 50 states and among all racial/ethnic groups.
- The teen birthrate is at an all-time low, led by a 50 percent decline among Hispanics and black teens.
Source: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
By Mary Toothman