Community initiatives can lower adolescent pregnancy rates

Community-wide initiatives, including sex education in 7th and 8th grade, can reduce the incidence of teen pregnancy, according to the results of a study published in the April issue of Health Education & Behavior.

Researchers compared the birth rate for adolescents living in two sections of Wichita, Kan., before and during the implementation of community programs aimed at preventing teen pregnancy.

The results showed reductions in birth rates in Target Area A where there was a greater concentration of community changes and a slight increase where there were fewer changes, says study author Adrienne Paine-Andrews, Ph.D., of the University of Kansas at Lawrence.

Paine-Andrews and her colleagues tracked the birth rate among girls between the ages of 14 and 17 in two target areas of northeastern Wichita between 1991 and 1993 and then again between 1994 to 1998. They also measured the number, intensity, duration and exposure rates of community changes.

The birth rate decreased by about 15 percent in Target Area A versus an increase of approximately 10 percent in Target Area B.

Community changes were defined as new or modified programs, policies and practices. Examples of community change included increasing clinic hours to provide greater access to health services and the adoption of human sexuality educational materials for 7th and 8th grade classes.

Eighty-three interventions had been instituted in Target Area A, as opposed to 20 in Target Area B. Interventions in Target Area B focused on local schools, while those in Target Area A were more likely involve other parts of the community, such as social services and youth organizations.

These findings suggest a possible link between improvement in the population-level health outcome of birth rate and the amount, intensity and exposure to community change, says Paine-Andrews. Positive changes in birth rates were found in the area with the greatest number

Contact: Ranjit Arab
Center for the Advancement of Health

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