Officials look at teen pregnancy rates

By Tony Parra

By Tony Parra
PNT Staff Writer
Public health workers for Roosevelt and Curry counties with the help of public school officials and health committees are trying to cut down the teen birth rates, with mixed results.
Carol Morgan, nurse manager for the public health office in Portales, will be introducing a curriculum to the Portales School Board in August 8 in an effort to reverse the teen pregnancy rate in Roosevelt County.
The rate — which represents the average number of babies born per 1,000 girls ages 15-19 — has risen from 54.8 in 1999 to 67.6 in 2003.
Morgan will introduce “Worth the Wait,” a curriculum designed to deal with teens in public schools and warn them of the consequences of having unprotected sex. The curriculum will be for students in the sixth grade and up.
Roosevelt County’s rank amongst the 33 counties in teen birth rates has been steadily increasing for the last 10 years, according to The State Center for Health Statistics of the New Mexico Department of Health. Roosevelt County went from the 23rd-ranked county from 1995 to 1999 to No. 10 in 2003.
The rate hit a high in Roosevelt County in 2000 with a birth rate of 80.5.
Morgan said last year, three 13-year-old girls came to the health office for a pregnancy test in one day.
“We’ve got to be able to change the mindset,” Morgan said. “I had a mother come in to test her 13-year-old and her 16-year-old daughters. She was worried that they were pregnant and when she found out the 16-year-old wasn’t, she wanted a fertility test done on her to find out why not.”
Morgan said children are raised in a setting where their mother was pregnant in her teens and it is considered acceptable.
It is an issue that Laura Adkins, director of the GRADS (Graduation Reality and Dual-Role Skills) system at Broad Horizons Educational Center is tackling also. Adkins reported BHEC school officials helped out 18 teen parents through the GRADS program for the 2004-05 school year during a June school board meeting.
The GRADS program helps with an intervention program for parenting teens. Adkins said BHEC officials make home visits to the teen parents and do grade checks. Adkins said they also contact dropouts to convince them to return.
“We are encouraging teen parents to go to college,” Adkins said in June’s school board meeting. Adkins said they are trying to see if the GRADS program can help 20 additional students at Portales High School who are teen parents.
Curry County’s birth rate per young females is higher than Roosevelt County. Curry County’s birth rate was 81.5 per every 1,000 females in 2003. In 1999, Curry County had a rate of 96. Curry County has the fourth highest teen pregnancy rate out of the 33 counties in New Mexico.
Gayla Jaquess, nurse manager with the public health department in Clovis said Curry County is heading in the right direction toward meeting the challenge set by the New Mexico Teen Pregnancy Coalition. The coalition set a challenge dating from 1999 for all counties to reduce teen birth rates 20 percent by 2005.
The challenge for Curry County was to reduce the rate of 96 in 1999 by 20 percent by 2005 to 76.8.
Lea County had the highest teen pregnancy rate for 2003 with 88.3 and Los Alamos County had the lowest at 6.9.