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Peninsula teen births higher than national average

Posted: December 17, 2011 - 9:01pm  |  Updated: December 18, 2011 - 8:38am

School programs and the availability of reproductive health services keep the Kenai Peninsula’s teen birth rate consistent with Alaska’s largest city, health officials said.

However, according to Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics data, the Peninsula has a higher teen birth rate than the national average despite three straight years of national decline. The consequences of teen pregnancy, such as higher likelihood of welfare use and child neglect, can have a negative effect on mother and child.

“Each school deals with teen pregnancy differently,” said Pegge Erkeneff, communications specialist at Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. “Although there’s reproductive health curriculum in all the health classes, the local communities — what they’re doing and what’s happening in their homes — is influential as well.”

The Peninsula’s birth rate in 2009 was 37.5 births per 1,000 teens aged 15 to 19. The rate is comparable to more urban communities on the Alaska road system, such as Anchorage, 35.2, and Fairbanks, 32.8.

“Our state has geographical barriers, creating an issue of access,” said Katherine L. Huffman, education manager at Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest. “One of the protective measures the Kenai Peninsula has is being on the road system.”

Statistically, Kenai’s teen birth rate is no different than Anchorage’s rate, said Brad Gessner, medical epidemiologist at the Alaska Division of Public Health. A better indicator of trends is vital statistics’ three-year teen birth rate. From 2007 to 2009, Kenai’s three-year rate was 33.1 and the state’s was 41.6. Add a risk ratio, which is an estimate of statistical variations, and the difference is significant, Gessner said.

“What it means is that Kenai has 20 percent lower risk of teen birth during that three-year period than Alaska,” he said.

Teens aged 15 to 19 totals 7.1 percent of the Peninsula’s population, which is similar to Anchorage’s 7.2 percent, according to 2010 data from the state’s Department of Labor. Health officials identified many risks and realities associated with teen pregnancy. Teens who are pregnant are at risk of not receiving adequate prenatal care—especially if they don’t have the support of their parents. Premature births and low-birth weight babies are also a risk for teens. And the consequences of teen pregnancy affect parents and children.

Teen mothers are less likely to complete high school with one-third receiving a high school diploma, and as a result, the mothers are more likely to end up on welfare, according to the National Institutes of Health. Babies born to teenagers are at risk for neglect and abuse because their young mothers are uncertain about their roles and may be frustrated by the constant demands of caretaking, according to the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Kenai Alternative High school houses a teen parenting program that connects teen parents and expecting teen parents to resources and support opportunities. The program aids an average of 10 teens annually, said Loren Reese, Kenai Alternative’s principal. Homer Flex School in Homer houses a similar program.

The national birth rate for teens aged 15 to 19 has declined for the last three years and 17 out of the past 19 years, falling to 34.3 — a 9-percent decline from 2009 and the lowest rate ever recorded in nearly seven decades of collecting data, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Teen births in 2010 for the state, which vital statistics has yet to release, follow the national trend, said Sophie Wenzel, Department of Public Health adolescent health program manager.

Contributing to the Peninsula’s urban-like teen birth rate are health clinics that receive Title X funding. The U.S. government enacted the Title X Family Planning program in 1970. It’s the only federal grant program dedicated to providing people with comprehensive family planning and related preventative health services. Kachemak Bay Family Planning Clinic in Homer is a Title X clinic. Their reproductive health services include birth control consulting and supplies, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment and pregnancy testing. The clinic offers sliding-scale payment methods, but many people can qualify for reduced or zero fees for reproductive services, Huffman said.

Planned Parenthood in Soldotna is one of the non-profit’s three Alaska clinics that receives Title X funding, which allows low cost or free services as well. Clinics in Juneau, Sitka and Soldotna receive such funds, but Anchorage and Fairbanks do not receive them. Barriers someone might experience regarding use of birth control include the cost of transportation to a clinic or pharmacy and shame or anxiety about being sexually active or having an exam, she said. Organizations related to Planned Parenthood lobby for pro-choice legislation and comprehensive sex education.

Newly released 2008 abortion data from the CDC show the decline in teen births is accompanied by a decline in abortions, suggesting that overall the teen pregnancy rate is going down, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a non-profit working to advance reproductive health. The CDC’s National Survey of Family Growth links the decline to improvements in teens’ contraceptive use. KPBSD chooses not to show its K-12 students how to use contraceptives. However, high school students are taught about contraceptives, said Betty Miller, a nurse at Skyview High School in Soldotna.

“Students are taught from age-appropriate, developmental-appropriate (stages) about their reproductive systems,” she said. “And obviously as they mature they get different information.”

Reproductive health curriculum varies in communities around the state. Miller created the health curriculum for KPBSD taught at all school levels, which the district implemented in the early 1990s. High schools require students to take a ninth-grade health course, unlike the Anchorage School District, which doesn’t have a requirement for health to graduate. Abstinence is also promoted — by mandate — at the district’s schools. The teachers decide how long to spend on reproductive health, Miller said.

“They are very aware of the sensitivity of this issue and will often have it toward the end of the semester or the upper grades of elementary toward the end of the school year when the students will be more comfortable with the material,” she said. Many factors impact teen pregnancy, such as education and poverty level, and although sexual education in the state is improving it’s still very dependent on where teens are, Miller said.

“What teacher you have and what district you’re in,” she said. “The availability of information on puberty and bodies and healthy relationships and contraception is pretty varied. It is not entirely meeting the needs of Alaskans.”

KPBSD is vast and diverse, Erkeneff said. It has 44 schools. Central Peninsula Hospital had 35 teen births in 2010, from girls aged 14-19. The number has visibly decreased from the 1980s and ’90s, said Gypsy Jolly, nursing director at CPH.

“I’ve worked here since 1980,” she said. “The numbers have gone down. Over the past 10 years it has definitely gone down.”

Jerzy Shedlock can be reached at jerzy.shedlock@peninsulaclarion.com.

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jlmh
352
Points
jlmh 12/18/11 - 12:47 pm
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Statistical range not very useful

The statistics would be more useful if they reported births to mothers under age 18 only. Although technically teens, 18 and 19 year-olds are adults, usually have high school diplomas, and may very well be employed and/or married and ready for children.

How many of these 37.5 peninsula births are actually to minors? Possibly none, since 15-19 year-old mothers are all grouped together. There's not much difference between a graduated, married, gainfully employed 19-year-old and a 20-year-old, so why get hung up on that first digit? We risk exaggerating the problem with statistics like that - or underestimating it by leaving out the truly problematic teen births that occur to mothers younger than 15.

oldwolf49
2
Points
oldwolf49 12/19/11 - 12:55 am
0
0
Teens pregnancy

From what I saw when I lived there and watched as they shut down EVERY SINGLE place for teens to go and do something I say this is an obvious result. Last couple of years what was there was not supervised at all either. Bet DFYS is rolling in the money.

cbeard
132
Points
cbeard 12/19/11 - 09:47 am
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Not surprising

The peninsula is a terrible place for teenagers and young adults in general and the pregnancy rates are only one indication. Every institution, business, and service seems like it's retiree or snowbird-oriented and doesn't provide anything of value for younger people, and anything that does is quickly passed off as a target for delinquency by NIMBY-heads.

Of the very few youth activities that exist, most of those are religious events that scare away the majority of people to begin with.

Peninsula young people will continue to have higher pregnancy rates because it seems like the only way to be taken seriously as a person by the retiree-aged peninsula is to be a "family person". And what's even worse is that it seems to work, and many people end up getting a "pass" just for being a parent.

Raoulduke
3084
Points
Raoulduke 12/19/11 - 11:14 am
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0
consequences

Planned Parenthood is something the parents should have seeked out immediately for their daughter to correct,and I am probably guessing here an unwanted pregnancy.The prohibitions placed on the youth of the Peninsula is shameful.Having supervised places for the young to enjoy themselves is imperative.More Sex education classes wouldn't hurt.The pregnancy occurred through UNSAFE practices.USE Condom's dummy.The schools(The CASH Cow) get their raises,but the Peninsula can not afford to lease a vacant structure for the use as a youth club.You may not like all that they do,but you will at least know Where they are,and with whom.I would think the cost of this youth club. Would be cheaper in the long run than the pregnancies of our female youth.The Religious segment needs to admit that the ABSTAINING approach is not a viable one.Teach the biology of our bodies honestly,and with NO personal opinion input i.e. religious belief.The youth want honesty.Give it to them.

jlmh
352
Points
jlmh 12/19/11 - 09:06 pm
0
0
I thought about it, and I

I thought about it, and I disagree that there are not enough things for teens to do. Local churches do provide a large chunk of teen activities, but so do the schools. There's always a sport - football, cheerleading, dance, soccer, cross-country running, track and field, wrestling, volleyball, basketball, ski team and hockey. There are ice rinks in Soldotna, Kenai and Nikiski, a pool in Nikiski and another at Skyview High School, skate parks in both Kenai and Nikiski, a bowling alley in Kenai, and several miles of maintained ski trails in Soldotna and Nikiski. There are other after-school activities, including Battle of the Books, school and community plays, band, competitive drama and debate, community-sponsored Youth Court, and scouts to name a few. Our lovely peninsula provides opportunities to hike, fish, canoe and snowmachine as well. What else would you have teens do?

I think the real problem is teens themselves. They're difficult to occupy! They are too old for toys and games that are so enjoyable to young children, but not old enough for the responsibilities that occupy adults. This was less of a problem in past cultures, where the age of adulthood was closer to the age of physical maturity. Of course, growing up fast had its own disadvantages.

iwrestle54
3
Points
iwrestle54 12/19/11 - 09:53 pm
0
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Raoulduke

Before you go off calling people dummy's, I'd like to say I know quite a few girls that have gotten pregnant even while USING Birthcontrol. Yes most pregnancies do result from being unsafe but don't throw the ones that were being safe under the bus. Another thing I can't stand ( which I don't really see here so not really directed towards anyone just expressing) is people looking down on ones who are and were teens parents. Because there are ones out there who are still with they're partner, who both have jobs, who pay their own bills and have NEVER lived off of welfare or food stamps or any of your tax money's.

Raoulduke
3084
Points
Raoulduke 12/20/11 - 04:27 am
0
0
Lucky Ones

There are ONES out there.Yes! Few,and very far between.Unless marrying in the teens is the norm for the region.I would bet.She WOULD rather have not gotten pregnant,and would have preferred to have gone to higher education,career,and would have put parenthood on hold.I as you assumed.I do not look down my nose at the parents.They are grandparents sooner than expected,and that is all.Yes! pregnancy does happen on birth control pills,but are rare.My opinion concerning the young couples. Who have stayed together.That have had the unwanted pregnancy.Have parents,or relatives with some money.Otherwise food stamps,and welfare would have been their norm.I also said.The teens need a place for themselves,more education on the sex,and STD prevention matter.BLUNT HONESTY may develop a better trust between the youth,and the powers of the Peninsula.

iwrestle54
3
Points
iwrestle54 12/20/11 - 10:22 pm
0
0
And like I said I didn't

And like I said I didn't assume anything, because I stated clearly I saw none of that here. I just am stating my opinion.  

And I am one of those parents thank you. And you know what, i dont think about the what ifs, had I not gotten pregnant. I got pregnant my before senior year to be exact, yes unplanned obviously. But I went on to graduate 4 months early, worked up until the NIGHT that I went in the hospital. Im 20 years old with a 2.5 year old. I have had the same job for 3 years now, I've recently become licensed as a CNA, my fiancé has a great job, our f150 is fully paid off, and I make MY OWN payments on my Audi a4, we have our own place, we pay our own bills, we've never lived on well fare or had food stamps. (And no, i dont look down on anyone who NEEDS welfare or foodstamps, as long as they arent using it as an excuse not to work.) But most importantly my kid is very well taken care of and has everything he needs or could ever want. I have two older siblings who are single with a better job than me that can't manage all that. That's has NOTHING to do with having parents with "money" that's having parents who taught us responsibility for ourselves and the child we brought into this world. That's having parents that taught me how to manage money and made me learn what the difference between necessities and wants are. And our son will be raised the EXACT same way. 

JOAT
490
Points
JOAT 12/21/11 - 10:43 pm
0
0
Biological factoids

The only tried and true method of not getting pregnant is abstinence. Abstinence is not a "religious" method of birth control; it's a biological one.

Abstinence is 100% effective at stopping pregnancy. Nothing else is.

Abstinence is 100% effective at preventing STD's, some of which cause Cancer, AIDS, Liver failure, and Death.

Pregnancy and STD's are 100% preventable, but only through 100% abstinence.

Both pregnancy and STD's are extremely costly to the people involved as well as society. The medical bills associated with pregnancy are staggering. Abstinence is free of charge.

Raoulduke
3084
Points
Raoulduke 12/22/11 - 06:22 am
0
0
Rare

You are the RARE exception.I Congratulate you.Time in ALL relationships is the litmus test.I wish you luck,happiness,and a great Holiday Season.

Raoulduke
3084
Points
Raoulduke 12/22/11 - 02:08 pm
0
0
abstaining

Abstinence is a viable form of birth control,but it goes against every fiber of our biological being.The human would be so frustrated by practicing this unnatural birth control.You can not combat the hormones,but you can educate.Always practice safe sex.

grumblecakes
0
Points
grumblecakes 12/22/11 - 03:54 pm
0
0
inevitable

If the Peninsula wasn't such a desperately dull dreary place for most kids at that age, they wouldn't be having sex out of boredom.

iwrestle54
3
Points
iwrestle54 12/22/11 - 05:26 pm
0
0
Thank you raoulduke, yeah I

Thank you raoulduke, yeah I am a rare exception, but I thank my parents for raising me right. Without them I probably wouldn't have the knowledge I have to get somewhere in life. Happy holidays to you!

jlmh
352
Points
jlmh 12/24/11 - 01:29 pm
0
0
Self-control is not such a

Self-control is not such a far-fetched idea.

KenaiKardinal88
517
Points
KenaiKardinal88 12/24/11 - 12:24 pm
0
0
birth rate

bad parenting; very bad parenting

angel22
2
Points
angel22 04/26/12 - 06:15 am
0
0
However, according to Alaska

However, according to Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics data, the Peninsula has a higher teen birth rate than the national average despite three straight years of national decline. The consequences of teen pregnancy, such as higher likelihood of …Hickory Flat OB GYN

angel22
2
Points
angel22 08/09/12 - 08:10 pm
0
0
The idea came from watching

The idea came from watching nature, specifically frogs and fish. Scientists questioned how Arctic fish could be swimming in and around frozen icebergs, becoming frozen themselves yet live through these conditions. This led to the discovery of cryoprotection, the ability to drop body temperatures quickly enough to preserve the current status. As scientists researched further, they mimicked cryoprotection by developing a slow cooling freezing process. Austism

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