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Births to teens decline
In Martinsville and Henry County
Sunday, December 29, 2013
By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer
Efforts of many area agencies, organizations and families are being credited with the nearly 38 to 47 percent drop in the numbers of teen pregnancies in Martinsville and Henry County from 2008 to 2012.
“I’m elated. ... I think that’s great,” Patricia Carter said of the decline in teen pregnancies in Henry County. She is executive director of For the Children Partners in Prevention Coalition Inc.
Carter attributed the decline to “a comprehensive approach” among schools, For the Children, the Health Department, other community-based organizations, churches and parents.
According to updated statistics on the Virginia Department of Health website, the total numbers of pregnancies of girls aged 10-19 fell nearly 47 percent in Henry County and nearly 38 percent in Martinsville from 2008 to 2012.
Henry County’s total numbers of pregnancies of females 10-19 were 103 in 2008, 96 in 2009, 78 in 2010, 59 in 2011 and 55 in 2012. Henry County’s pregnancy rates for females 10-19 dropped from 32.3 per 1,000 females in 2008 to 18.3 per 1,000 in 2012.
Martinsville’s total numbers of pregnancies of females 10-19 were 45 in 2008, 46 in 2009, 41 in 2010, 34 in 2011 and 28 in 2012. Martinsville’s pregnancy rates for females 10-19 dropped from 52.2 per 1,000 females in 2008 to 37.1 per 1,000 in 2012. Martinsville had the 11th highest pregnancy rate among Virginia’s localities listed for 2008 and the 13th highest for 2012.
Henry County Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton stated in an email: “I am pleased that the teen pregnancy rate has declined each year for the past several years for Henry County. While it is difficult to identify one specific strategy that has had the greatest impact on this positive trend, I believe that ongoing collaboration between the schools, the community and students’ families is at the heart of our success.”
“We are ... fortunate to have strong partnerships with partners such as the United Way, For the Children, and faith-based organizations in our community,” Cotton stated. “We all work together to provide after-school resources, educational opportunities and experiences for students, positive role models and mentors, and support services as needed,” he added.
Cotton also said: “This is a community that really cares about its children and works tirelessly to help them make positive choices for the future. I think that the data provides an indication that our collective efforts have been successful. However, it is important to continue our work to maintain this positive trend.”
Carter said for more than 10 years, For the Children has been providing family education for students in Henry County Schools. The program is for fourth- through 10th-graders.
“We’ve gained respect of the young people we see,” Carter said. “It’s not a judgmental program. It helps young people (learn) why they should be abstinent and make good choices.”
Last school year, For the Children did a program called Making a Difference for sixth-graders in Martinsville City Public Schools to help prevent teen pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases, Carter said. It was funded by the United Way.
Carter called Martinsville’s decline in teen pregnancies “wonderful.”
“We must be doing something right ... ,” she said of the various partners involved in prevention efforts.
Tiffani Underwood, executive director of United Way of Henry County and Martinsville, said: “We certainly wouldn’t take any credit for statistics decreasing. We do try to work with the community and agencies on issues and pressing problems in the community. We’re glad to see investments we have made on issues, (such as) teenage pregnancies, are paying off in statistics that you have quoted.”
“That’s awesome,” Dr. Margaret “Molly” O’Dell, acting director of the West Piedmont Health District, said of the area’s teen pregnancy declines.
“Nationwide, thank God, teen pregnancies are going down, but they are going up in rural areas. The fact it’s going down in (this area) is wonderful,” she said. She noted that teen pregnancies went up in a number of rural health districts in Southwest Virginia.
According to data on the Virginia Department of Health website, from 2011 to 2012, Southwest Virginia localities with rising teenage pregnancy rates included the cities of Norton, Radford and Salem and the counties of Alleghany, counties, Carroll, Giles, Lee, Montgomery, Pulaski, Russell and Tazewell.
“I’m sure that (the teen health center at Martinsville High School) has made a significant impact” in reducing teen pregnancies in the city, O’Dell said.
The health center is a collaboration between the Health Department and Martinsville City Public Schools.
The center started in the 2009-10 school year. In an interview in early 2012, Beth Holyfield, teen health center nurse, said from 2009 through January 2012, the number of pregnancies dropped among MHS students more than 60 percent, from double digits to the low single digits.
Among the family planning services offered at the center were education, counseling, pregnancy tests, pelvic exams, writing and distributing prescriptions for contraceptives and distributing condoms, according to Holyfield.
O’Dell said she believes another factor in the local declines in teen pregnancies was the national movement for using long-acting reversible contraception. She mentioned three types: Depo-Provera, a birth control shot that lasts three months; an intrauterine device that lasts 5-10 years; and an implant inserted under the skin that lasts three years.
The local declines in teen pregnancies show “they (teens) are either abstaining or have good heads on their shoulders and are using appropriate contraception,” O’Dell said.