Wednesday is the National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Day, and Barton County rates released from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment for 2009 shows work still needs to be done. "Sex has consequences" is the message this year from the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
There were 57 total recorded teen pregnancies in Barton County in 2009, with 14 ending in abortion. The rate per 1,000 is 30.6 which is higher than the state average of 27.4 per 1,000, according to the KDHE. There is good news though, the teen pregnancy rate declined six percent throughout the nation, and Barton County followed suit with a decline in the rate from 36.3 per 1,000 in 2008 to 30.6 in 2009.
According to the National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Campaign, three in 10 girls become pregnant at least once before age 20. Forty-six percent of high school students are sexually experienced, and by twelfth grade, 62 percent are experienced which means 6 out of ten high school seniors are sexually experienced. The U.S. teen pregnancy rate, sexually transmitted disease rate and abortion rates are the highest in the industrialized world, according to the Center for Disease Control.
Lily Akings, director of the Barton County Health Department, encourages parents to begin sharing appropriate information for the child’s age beginning in sixth grade, but the conversations need to begin earlier. "We can’t stick our head in the sand. We have to teach them to be responsible.
"They hear it from their peers," she said. "We can’t rely on the school system."
"You don’t have to use fancy terminology," she said. "Sex leads to pregnancy. Babies need mature parents."
The number of reported cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis for Barton County was 175, according to the health department. In addition, there are 25 known cases of HIV/AIDS. Danielle Werth, nurse at BCHD, notes STDs can be transmitted to other parts of the body beside the genitals.
"Parents need to step up," said Akings. "Parents need to be aware their own behavior influences their children. Children will follow in their footsteps."
Currently, there are 14 teenagers from Great Bend in the Women and Infant Care program, according to Werth, nurse at BCHD.
The United State has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the world which Akings credits those statistics to being unwilling to talk about it. "It is costing the nation a lot of money."
Cost of teen pregnancy
• Most of the costs of teen childbearing are associated with negative consequences for the children of teen mothers. In Kansas, in 2004, annual taxpayer costs associated with children born to teen mothers included: $12 million for public health care (Medicaid and SCHIP); $23 million for child welfare; $14 million for incarceration; and $30 million in lost tax revenue, due to decreased earnings and spending, according to the National Campaign.
• The costs of childbearing are greatest for younger teens. In Kansas, the average annual cost associated with a child born to a mother 17 and younger is $4,238. Teens are more at risk for health problems during pregnancy and have babies with low-birth weight.
•A new analysis from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy shows that teen childbearing (teens 19 and younger) in Kansas cost taxpayers (federal, state, and local) at least $91 million in 2004.
• Of the total 2004 teen childbearing costs in Kansas, 43% were federal costs and 57% were state and local costs.
•Only 50 percent of teen moms get a high school diploma.
More information can be found at www.thenationalcampaign.org.