Urges Coordinated Community Effort To Combat Teen Pregnancy, Sexually
Oct. 8, 1999 -- The Task Force on Teen Pregnancy
Prevention today called for a broad-based, coordinated community
effort to combat teen-age pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.
The call to action comes in a new report that examines current programs
in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area and offers a blueprint for
action, building on proven programs.
report recommends feasible, cost-effective steps, starting with
existing programs and including roles for every sector of society
families, churches, schools, businesses, service groups and
health care professionals," says Jack Marshall, a retired international
consultant on family planning. Marshall chaired the task force that
includes professionals from a wide range of community groups and
half a dozen faculty members at the University of Virginia.
made progress but we need to do more," Marshall says. "Even
one unintended teen pregnancy is too many."
big a problem is it? One million American girls got pregnant in
1997. Three million American teens are infected each year with STDs
(Sexually Transmitted Diseases). Though parents may not want to
believe it, roughly half the teens in U.S. high schools have had
Charlottesville, 45 girls aged 10-17 became pregnant in 1997. In
Albemarle County, 40 girls 10-17 became pregnant the same year.
human cost of teen pregnancy and births to teen mothers has grown
in the past 50 years, as fewer and fewer teen-age couples marry.
This places the burden of raising an unplanned child on the teen
mother and her family, the report notes. Teen mothers often drop
out of school, leading to a lifetime of low-paying jobs or welfare.
Poor parenting skills often hurt the children, creating developmental
problems that schools and other agencies then need to address.
total cost to American society in lost tax revenues, welfare
spending, health care for children, foster care, criminal justice
was estimated at $15 billion annually by the national report
on teen pregnancy, Kids Having Kids, released in 1996. This
figure does not include the personal and financial costs to teens,
their children, and their families.
an individual basis, the cost of an unplanned birth to a teen-age
mother is estimated at $37,000.
Charlottesville-Albemarle County community currently spends about
$230,000 a year on teen pregnancy prevention. The report recommends
a 60 percent increase in annual spending, to $550,000, which would
lead to savings estimated at $1.4 million annually.
already have a number of small, effective programs in our community,"
said Steven Stern, professor of economics at U.Va. and task force
member. "Everything we know about them suggests that expanding
them would be a wonderful investment paying the community back many
of the current programs operating in the Charlottesville-Albemarle
County area are excellent, the task force found. In particular,
it cites the prevention programs Teensight and Reach at FOCUS, Camp
Horizon and Young Guys of Distinction at MACAA, and Teens Give.
Also, the report commends the reproductive health services available
to community teens at The Teen Health Center at U.Va., Thomas Jefferson
Health Department, and Planned Parenthood of the Blue Ridge.
they are not enough.
report calls for coordinated action, while recognizing the communitys
diversity and the need for flexibility in implementing its recommendations:
"We must strive for unity of principle while respecting the
diversity of means," the report says.
task force offers more than 50 recommendations to strengthen the
communitys response to teen pregnancy and STDs. The recommendations
for action are organized under: Families, Schools, Community Organizations,
Health Care Services, Religious Organizations, and the Business
nine highest priorities, according to the report, are to:
proven programs of excellence
the multifaceted needs of teenagers social, emotional,
and intellectual, as well as biological
communication about sexuality and reproductive health between
adults and teenagers; emphasize prevention in the media
outreach to greater numbers of teenagers, not just those deemed
high-risk, by increasing spending on cost-effective programs
a position for a full-time professional to coordinate community
support and educational opportunities to parents to strengthen
their ability to articulate their values and communicate with
children of all ages
that a series of programs seamlessly covers the teen years
schools Family Life Education curricula and teacher training
health care providers to play a more active role in educating
teens and their parents about reproductive health
report also calls for studies of teen sexuality knowledge,
attitudes and behavior that would guide area agencies in
planning and programming. There is a dearth of such data for the
Charlottesville-Albemarle area, according to the task force.
teen pregnancy rates have declined slightly over the 1990s locally
and nationally, still American teen pregnancy and teen birth rates
remain unacceptably high the highest in the industrialized
world. In 1995, the birth rate per 1,000 girls aged 15-19 was 54.7
in the United States, 45.4 in Virginia, 58.5 in Charlottesville,
and 19.7 in Albemarle County. In France the same year, the teen
birth rate was 7.
transmitted diseases are a related concern. While there have been
no reported cases of HIV/AIDS among teenagers in the Charlottesville-Albemarle
area, according to the Thomas Jefferson Health District, undetected
cases are "likely," given the increase in the infected
pool. Syphilis is a declining problem, particularly among teens.
genital herpes and genital warts, two viral STDs, are increasing
in the teen and general populations. Hard to track because theyre
rarely reported, the underlying diseases cannot be cured by health
care providers, although their symptoms can be treated.
incidence of two bacterial STDs, gonorrhea and chlamydia, also is
increasing, but they are easily diagnosed with simple blood tests
and can be cured with antibiotics. However, if left untreated, these
diseases, which have no obvious symptoms, can cause pelvic inflammatory
disease and infertility in young women.
1997-98, girls aged 10-19 accounted for 46 percent of the chlamydia
cases and 32 percent of the cases of gonorrhea reported in Virginia.
In the Charlottesville-Albemarle area, partly because of the sexually
active college-age population, 50-54 percent of the total chlamydia
cases and 37-42 percent of the gonorrhea cases were found in girls
task force was created in response to a 1997 Charlottesville-Albemarle
County town meeting on "Partners in Teen Pregnancy and STD
Prevention," organized by a consortium of local groups concerned
about teen-age pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease.
then, the task force has built on research gathered by nationally
recognized studies and conducted an exhaustive inventory of programs
in the Charlottesville-Albemarle County area. The effort has received
broad-based support from local government, the business community,
not-for-profit agencies, youth groups, civic organizations and leaders
in the medical and political communities.
of the small work group who prepared this report on behalf of the
larger task force are: John F. "Jack" Marshall, retired
international consultant in family planning; Joseph Allen, professor
of psychology, U.Va.; Dyan Aretakis, project director, Teen Health
Center, U.Va.; Cri Kars-Marshall, medical sociologist, Council on
Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention; Steven Stern, professor of economics,
U.Va.; Mary Sullivan, family life education consultant, Council
on Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention.
more information, call Jack Marshall, task force chair, at (804)
974-6390. The full report will soon be available online at: http://www.cstone.net/capp.
Charlotte Crystal, (804) 924-6858