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Teen Birth Rate on the Rise, in WV and Nationwide

December 17, 2007

Charleston, WV – It's a disturbing trend, according to teen advocates. New numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the national teen birth rate rose last year, for the first time since 1991. Teen births are up in West Virginia, too, following the national trend.

Kim Thomas, who coordinates the state's Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, says it's vital to make sure teens are getting the right message, starting in middle school.

"Children are getting pregnant at a younger age. They're not educated on how to prevent pregnancies or sexually transmitted diseases, so we are reaching out to the younger population to prevent an increase in these numbers."

Thomas says the key to lowering these numbers is to use sex education programs that include abstinence, decision-making skills and information about contraceptives. Even though some West Virginia middle schools have what Thomas calls "good programs" in place, she says a lot of work must be done before those classes are available statewide.

Margaret Chapman, executive director of West Virginia FREE, says the state should make age-appropriate sex education and access to contraceptives a top priority for all parts of West Virginia.

"Comprehensive sex ed and birth control make healthier communities by preventing unintended teen pregnancy. It's the responsible thing to do so that our kids can make the right decisions and protect themselves."

Chapman advises that the state steer clear of abstinence-only education, because a number of studies show a lack of positive results.

Information about teen birth rates is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at
www.cdc.gov.

Rob Ferrett/Craig Eicher, Public News Service - WV