In a meeting in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Wednesday, January 18, adolescent health advocates along with state health and education leaders announced a new goal to reduce the teen pregnancy rate by 30% over the next ten years. While North Carolina’s teen pregnancy rate has steadily declined since the 1990s—decreasing by 53% over the last 20 years—the state still holds the 14th highest teen pregnancy rate in the country. The Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina (APPCNC) announced the goal with the backing of health and medical providers, professional associations, and policy makers, asserting that North Carolina can do more.
“On the heels of such great success, North Carolina needs to keep momentum in reducing teen pregnancy,” said APPCNC Executive Director Kay Phillips in a statement. “This goal is intended to help inspire and challenge people to keep working toward effective solutions.”
In conjunction with its announcement of the new state goal, APPCNC released a report detailing the state of adolescent sexual health in North Carolina and an action plan to achieve the reduced teen pregnancy rate. The North Carolina State of Adolescent Sexual Health and Action Plandetails concrete steps for parents, community leaders, schools, medical professionals, and young people themselves to take to “help young people become healthy adults.”
APPCNC asserts in the report that the goal for reducing teen pregnancy in North Carolina can be accomplished by “building on current policies, leveraging current investments, and incorporating science-based practices.” The report provides six broad strategies for supporting the healthy development of North Carolina’s youth:
- Provide basic knowledge through effective sexuality education.
- Concentrate on the most vulnerable young people.
- Increase access to health care.
- Build parental confidence and involvement.
- Make health care work for teens.
- Support and inform healthy actions.
Among the action steps detailed in the report, one strategy offered for schools is to expand the sexual health education requirement to more grades. North Carolina’s sex education policyrequires students in grades 7 through 9 to receive “Reproductive Health and Safety Education.” Such instruction teaches about the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and provides information on the effectiveness and safety of all U.S. Food and Drug Administration–approved methods for reducing the risk of STDs and unintended pregnancy. The report encourages school boards to consider adopting policies that would expand requirements for this type of instruction into grades 10 through 12.
Along with increasing education requirements, the report calls for health care providers to make services accessible and user-friendly for youth. This includes making sure that confidentiality policies are clearly stated to allay teens’ concerns about privacy, developing information that is specific to teenage clients, and instituting processes and programs that cater to teens, such as same-day appointments and walk-in hours to increase teen usability of health care services.
The report also emphasizes the role of young people in supporting their own healthy development by becoming “active participants in their health and in their communities.” The report states that engaging young people—for example, by helping them become community advocates or peer educators, starting their own clubs, or meeting with decision makers—serves to increase their sexual health knowledge and leadership skills. It calls on communities to “increase opportunities for youth to become engaged in groups or projects that affect their futures and the futures of their peers.”
Lee Storrow, the 22 year-old Chapel Hill town councilman who was first elected to office in 2011, states in the report, “As we work to decrease teen pregnancy in our state, we must keep young people involved. Young people are making decisions that impact our state now. It’s often said that young people are the leaders of tomorrow, but we are the leaders of today.”
The goal of reducing teen pregnancy by 30% has been endorsed by more than 40 organizations and individuals, including Representative Diane Parfitt (D-Cumberland), the North Carolina Institute of Medicine, the North Carolina Pediatric Society, the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center, and the North Carolina School Boards Association.
Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina, “State Leaders Announce Ten-Year Goal to Reduce North Carolina Teen Pregnancies,” 18 January 2011, accessed 30 January 2011, <http://appcnc.org/images/file/Media%20Release%20-%20State%20Goal.pdf>.
Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina, North Carolina State of Adolescent Sexual Health and Action Plan (Durham, NC: Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of North Carolina, 2012), <http://appcnc.org/images/file/Entire%20Final%20SASH%20Report.pdf>.
SIECUS, North Carolina Fiscal Year 2010 State Profile, (Washington, DC: SIECUS, 2011), accessed 9 February 2012, <http://www.siecus.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=Page.ViewPage&PageID=1316>.
North Carolina State of Adolescent Sexual Health and Action Plan, <http://appcnc.org/images/file/Entire%20Final%20SASH%20Report.pdf>.