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Teen birth rates down statewide, up in Valley

POSTED February 25, 2011 7:25 p.m.

A new report from the California Department of Public Health shows teen birth rates have reached a record low for the state, while remaining higher than average in the San Joaquin Valley.

California’s teen birth rate declined from 35.2 births for every 1,000 teens in 2008 to 32.1 in 2009, the most recent year that rates were available. Teen birth rates reached a peak in California in 1991, when the teen birth rate was 70.9, more than twice as high as the rate in 2009.

There were 47,811 births to teens ages 15-19 in 2009, a reduction from the 51,704 births the previous year.

“Early teenage childbearing has been recognized to have negative consequences for adolescent mothers, their children, and society as a whole,” said Dr. Mark Horton, director of the California Department of Public Health. “For all these reasons, achieving a record low teen birth rate in California is an important accomplishment.”

The teen birth rate is per 1,000 females age 15 to 19 years.

Locally, counties that make up the San Joaquin Valley had a higher three year average teen birth rate than the state average from 2007 to 2009. Stanislaus County was ranked 18th in the state with a teen birth rate of 40.6 for the three year period. San Joaquin County was 17th at 41.6 and Merced County was eighth at 51.0. Kern County had the highest rate at 62.8 and Marin County had the lowest at 12.0.

While Hispanic teens continued to have the highest birth rate in 2009, they demonstrated the largest absolute reduction when compared to other major race or ethnic groups. The Hispanic teen birth rate dropped from 61.9 in 2007 to 50.8 in 2009, a striking decrease of 11.1 teen births per 1,000. African-American teens had the second highest birth rate at 40.5 in 2007. The rate for African-American teens dropped to 37.0 in 2009, representing a decrease of 3.5 births per 1,000. The teen birth rate for Asian/Pacific Islander teens fell from 10.9 in 2007 to 8.5 in 2009, while the rate for White teens declined from 13.6 in 2007 to 11.9 in 2009.

In a continuing effort to decrease the teen birth rate locally, the Stanislaus County Health Services Agency has been sponsoring two specific programs geared towards bringing the rate down.

The Responsibility, Education, Attitude, and Leadership Project, or R.E.A.L, uses a variety of methods, from sex education in the schools to parent and outreach events that help spread the message about the realities of teen pregnancies.

Additionally, the health services agency coordinates the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Collaborative, which is a coalition of local stakeholders with the mission of decreasing teen pregnancies in Stanislaus County, said the agency’s health promotion manager Esmeralda Gonzalez.

The two programs have been in operation since 1996 and have funding through June 30, Gonzalez said.

“Even though Stanislaus County is higher than the state average, we are making headway and we have seen a decrease,” Gonzalez said.

For additional information about either Stanislaus County Health Services Agency, call 558-5657.

To contact Sabra Stafford, e-mail sstafford@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2002.

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