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MN Teens Making Wise Choices About Sexual Health

May 6, 2011

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The teen pregnancy rate in Minnesota is now the lowest on record, according to a new report on adolescent sexual health.

While girls from communities of color are still two to five times more likely than white girls to experience a teen pregnancy, rates have fallen for all groups.

Brigid Riley, executive director of Teenwise Minnesota - formerly the Minnesota Organization on Adolescent Pregnancy, Prevention and Parenting (MOAPP) - says the numbers show that teens are making wiser decisions.

"The teen pregnancy rates have fallen so dramatically since MOAPP got its start in 1991. We've really seen a drop here; we're nearing the halfway point from where we were."

The state's teen pregnancy rate has dropped almost 44 percent in the past two decades, and the percentage of Minnesota teens who are sexually active is lower than the national average. Riley says the trends show the effectiveness of investing in strategies that work. Prevention work remains to be done, she says, as evidenced by the continued increase in sexually transmitted diseases.

On the eve of the group's 20th anniversary, as a means of emphasizing the fact that teens can and do make good decisions about sexual health and parenting, Riley says the organization officially changed its name to Teenwise Minnesota on Thursday.

"We think that our new organizational name Teenwise allows us to frame teen-agers in a new light, and it also helps us invite teen-agers to think about what they need to be wise, in order to make good decisions. We hope it invites adults to think about what they're doing to be teen wise as well."

Riley hopes more people and community groups will come to understand that adolescent sexual health is much more than the absence of teen pregnancy or disease.

"We also know that social factors like education, income, housing and neighborhoods - all of those play a role in the rates of teen pregnancy, and HIV and STDs. Minnesota communities have to take a look at all of those things, all the social environments in which young people are living and working and learning."

Promoting healthy adolescence requires a village approach, Riley says, with concerted efforts from parents, educators, youth programs and faith communities.

The group's report is online at teenwisemn.org.

Sharon Rolenc, Public News Service - MN