Richmond County teen pregnancy rate plummets

Amanda Moss Richmond County Daily Journal

October 15, 2013

Outreach efforts seem to be working. The Richmond County teen pregnancy rate in 2012 hit an all time low.

North Carolina released on Tuesday statistics on teen pregnancy. The state’s rate in 2012 fell 10 percent, a historic low for the state. The 2012 rate was 39.6 per 1,000 15 to 19 year old girls. Richmond County teens became pergnant at a rate of 59.9 per 1,000 — higher than the state’s average, but a significant drop from the 2011 rate of 90.3. This is a 27.9 percent decline in the county numbers.

Richmond County was No. 1 in the state for the highest teen pregnancy rate in 2011. The 2012 data drops Richmond County to ninth among the state’s 100 counties.

Richmond County Health Director Tommy Jarrell is proud of the improvement in the numbers.

“Not only did the county drop from No. 1 to No. 9 in ranking, but the county rate also declined by 27.9 percent compared to a state decline of 10 percent,” Jarrell said.

The number of teen pregnancies has reduced among girls of all racial and ethnic backgrounds. Teen pregnancy rates among the county’s white population fell by 22.5 percent. There was also a decline of 38.6 percent among minorities. Repeat teen pregnancies declined to 19.1 percent in 2012, which is down from 24.6 percent in 2011. The state’s repeat pregnancy for 2012 was 24.5 percent.

Jarrell said the likely reason for this decline is the “Baby Think It Over Program,” which is a program from the Richmond County Health Department in conjunction with Richmond County Schools. This program requires seventh grade children, who have signed up for it, to take home a doll that behaves similar to a baby for an entire weekend.

Jarrell also attributes the drop in the numbers to the fact that there are now more structured activities in the afternoon available to teens than there were years ago.

“After school programs are a key to this,” Jarrell said. “And the Leak Street after school program is a solid one.”

J.C. Watkins, president of the Leak Street Cultural Center, agreed with Jarrell.

Tha program focuses on various issues that affect children. Ten years ago that focus was on teen pregnancy, said Watkins.

“What we are seeing is likely carry over from our efforts then,” said Watkins.

While the program is now focused more on child obesity, keeping kids involved in something after school is the main goal when fighting teen pregnancy.

“Statistics show that teenage girls tend to get pregnant between the hours of 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.,” said Watkins. “By keeping them busy during those hours, we are hoping to continue to affect the rate of teen pregnancies here in the county.”

The program currently has around 50 children ranging between kindergarten and ninth grade.

The state and national goal is to reduce the rate of teen pregnancy to less than 30 by 2020.

“We still have a ways to go from 59.9,” Jarrell said, “but we are definitely getting there.”