Teen pregnancy rates remain steady in Carter County
Despite Oklahoma being the fourth highest state for teen pregnancy, according to the Carter County Health Department teen pregnancy has steadied in Carter County.
Praxidia Taruwinga, an adolescent health specialist, said the department receives a report on teen pregnancy every five years, and Carter County’s teen pregnancy percentage has always been high.
“In Carter County particularly from the last report we got, from age 15 to 17, we are at 13%,” Taruwinga said. “From 18 to 19, we are at 48%. We can say it’s been steady considering the previous years because it has changed by 1%.”
Taruwinga said she believes the percentage has always been so high in the county because there have been resistance in the community to introduce teen pregnancy and sex education programs beyond just teaching about abstinence. Nearly 50% of high school students reported that they have already had sex once, Taruwinga said, and the discussion on safe sex was not being had.
“That discussion was not open,” Taruwinga said. “So we are beginning to have such conversations more and more, including STD education. That was not happening before.”
To help lower the teen pregnancy rate, Taruwinga said the department is pushing for evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs both in schools and in community organizations. These pregnancy prevention programs can teach teens how to stay safe if they’re already sexually active, the risk of pregnancy, as well what healthy relationships look like.
Taruwinga said one of the main ways to decrease the teen pregnancy rate is to educate teens to make smart decisions and to partner with community organizations and schools to increase teen pregnancy prevention programs.
“The main idea is that schools have a unique opportunity to equip students with the information they need to make informed decisions about their future, so they can prevent teen pregnancies,” Taruwinga said. ”Also if we can partner with them and have a collaborative approach including especially parents and faith based leaders and any other youth serving professionals leaders, we will be able to make a bigger impact than where we are now.”