West KY Teen Birth Rates
Kentucky average teen birth rate of 54 births per 1000 was well over the national average of 42 births per 1000. As we reported last week, it was high enough to get us into the unenviable top ten list of most teen pregnancies.
We wanted to go deeper into how West Kentucky is doing compared to the rest of the state in the number of teen pregnancies. Joy Hoskins, Assistant Director of the Division of Womens’ Health and her staff were extremely helpful in supplying the statistical data in this article. Joy and her staff discussed the programs currently in place.
The Purchase Area Development District was well below the state average with 45 per 1000. The most gratifying was Ballard County’s 17 per 1000 rate. That rate is one third of the state average.
Regions within the state varied widely. The statewide average worked out to 54 per thousand, well above the US average of 42. Across the ADDS, averages range from a low of 45 in the Purchase to a high of 72 in Cumberland Valley. (See map)
What is being done to prevent teen pregnancy?
According to Ms. Hoskins and her staff, local health departments partner with schools and community organizations, like churches in pregnancy prevention programs. Abstinence only programs are the most prevalent, present in all 120 counties. The federal government pays the state $817,297 for its program. Local health departments use local, state and federal moneys to run their programs. In 2007, 40,000 adolescents were served through this program.
Other programs include
A program developed by Dr. Betsy Neel of UK that teaches parents how to talk to their teens about sex.
Wise Teen Initiative – a Pike County Health Department program that focuses on middle and high school boys to give them a positive self education.
The Positive Youth Development Program that focuses teens on community involvement.
University programs that include abstinence education as part of their freshman orientation.
Sex education for young people must be preapproved by their parents. Abstinence only is the one program that the great majority of parents can approve. Other approaches to dealing with teen pregnancy, prevention, birth control, run into objections from conservative parents and churches.
Areas with high poverty rates, low educational attainment and high minority demographics have higher teen birth rates. Looking at the graph of the Purchase, Fulton County with high unemployment, a larger minority population and a high poverty has the highest rate of teen pregnancy.