EDITORIAL: Teen birth rate

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National numbers show the teen birth rate dropping dramatically around the country, but not so in Chickasaw County.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention report released last week said the teen birth rate has dropped 30- to 40-percent in some parts of the country. Mississippi and Arkansas continue to lead the nation with a rate of 50 birth per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 19.

Chickasaw County recorded 55 Birth-to-Single-Teens in 2010, the last year this data was available from CREATE Foundation. That was up from 50 births in 2009 and down from the 2007 high of 64.

The most recent report at the national level admits it does not know what is driving the drop in teen births. Surprisingly the report ventured the weak economy dampened enthusiasm for having children and led to the decline.

We would also like to point out that Chickasaw County TANF and food stamp payments per household in 2009 stood at $616.40 and rose to $798.07 in 2010. Our unemployment rate stood at 14.4 percent in 2010 and dropped to 12.8 percent in 2011.

We hope new numbers for Chickasaw County show our community is beginning to wake up to the pitfalls of teen births.

When a teenager becomes a mother – or father – statistics show they are more likely to neglect their education, more likely to neglect their health and the health of their baby and more likely to need and accept government assistance. And this drain on the local and national economy is long-term as this baby is raised to adulthood.

Combating teen pregnancy is a very complex issue. The moral, social and emotional concerns touch us all.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also points out teaching teenage boys and girls how pregnancy can impact their life is the key to prevention. We urge our schools, our churches and most importantly our parents to talk frankly with kids about sex, teen pregnancy and prevention.

There are thousands of resources to be found on-line. Local state and federal health agencies in both Houston and Okolona are also a good place to start. Churches, church members and adult friends who care should also guide teens looking for answers to some of life’s biggest questions.

Reducing teen pregnancy numbers in Chickasaw County is the concern of everyone in our community. Our numbers won’t drop until everyone plays a part.

 

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