Teen pregnancy. It's a controversial subject glamorized by a society obsessed with reality television. But this sleight-of-hand comes with a price. Sadly, the debt is being paid by teen parents who are learning the hard way.
According to statistics, West Virginia teens give birth at a higher rate than the national average (43 percent per 1,000 compared to 40.5 percent nationally). To bring the issue closer to home, Coordinated School Public Health recently identified West Virginia's five counties with the highest rates of teen birth as Calhoun, Clay, McDowell, Mingo and Tyler, with an average of 93.3 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19.
This is a problem we simply can't ignore in this county.
In October 2010, West Virginia received nearly two million dollars in federal grant funds for two very different approaches to preventing teen pregnancy. These grants mark the first time in more than a decade that the federal government will fund sex education not solely based on abstinence, although the programs still emphasize abstinence.
The CHS education program intends to take a "holistic approach" to preventing teen pregnancy. Educators will work with a select group of at-risk 6th-graders in afterschool and summer programs that focus on academics, building social skills, reducing delinquency and addressing health issues.
Mission WV has been in middle and high schools for the past three years teaching pregnancy prevention as part of the Community Based Abstinence Education program. The 2010 grant will fund the program Teaching Health Instead of Nagging Kids (THINK), which has been proven to lower the pregnancy rate among participants.
In the coming weeks we will tackle this taboo, yet important topic in a sincere effort to uncover the truth and dispel the common myths that glamorize the lives teen parents.