Across the state of Iowa and throughout the nation, May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month is an effort to raise awareness about teen pregnancy and the need for effective, comprehensive teen pregnancy prevention programs. The message of this month is straightforward: Sex has consequences.
Hundreds of thousands of teens nationwide are expected to participate in the National Day by taking an online quiz (available in English and Spanish) at stayteen.org which delivers the message directly to teens and challenges them to think carefully about what they might do "in the moment."
The Teen Information Pregnancy Prevention Coalition of Webster County supports these efforts and invites the Fort Dodge community to join us in our mission to promote healthy relationships and prevent risky sexual behavior among Webster County youths.
What is TIPP?
TIPP - Teen Information Pregnancy Prevention - is a group of local health providers, education providers, community members, youth-serving groups, faith-based groups and parents that started in 2006. TIPP's vision is a community committed to the comprehensive health and well-being of Webster County youths. The goal of TIPP is to reduce the teen pregnancy rate and teen STD rate in Webster County. TIPP is funded through the Iowa Department of Human Services, the United Way and Community Foundation and local donors.
TIPP supports comprehensive, science-based approach to sexuality education. In recent years, the field of adolescent pregnancy prevention and sexual health has been dramatically strengthened by accurate, persuasive, research-based information on what works to impact important outcomes connected to teen pregnancy prevention, including postponement of sexual initiation, condom and contraceptive use, and a reduced number of sexual partners. According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy's report "Emerging Answers 2007": "to reduce teen pregnancy and STDs dramatically, communities ... need programs that focus on the sexual risk and protective factors, for these are the most highly related to sexual risk behavior, and programs that address nonsexual factors that are also related to sexual risk behavior."
To get involved
TIPP is supported by a Steering Committee. If you are interested in being on that committee please contact the chairman, Bill Kerns at 576-5218.
TIPP also has working committees that are in need of members and/or ideas.
Donations are accepted to help TIPP Project activities and TIPP programs.
Volunteer to help with events, create materials and create ways to deliver medically accurate information and local statistics/handouts.
Numerous sexuality education programs that include messages about both abstinence and contraception have been proven effective in helping teens delay sexual intercourse, reduce their number of sexual partners, and increase contraceptive and condom use when they do become sexually active.
Contraception, rather than abstinence, is most responsible for the decline in teen pregnancy. The Alan Guttmacher Institute found that between 1988 and 1995 three-quarters of the decline in teen pregnancy was the result of improved contraceptive use among sexually active teenagers and only one-quarter was the result of decreased rates of sexual intercourse.
Gov. Chet Culver rejected all abstinence-only-until-marriage federal funding in 2007. President Barack Obama has now eliminated such funding from the 2010 federal budget and also supports comprehensive sex education prevention programs in his vision for sexual health in America. TIPP programs under the guidance of the Iowa Department of Human Services must also promote and utilize science-based approaches in program development, implementation and evaluation. TIPP is further expected to address adolescents' access to family planning services and contraceptives.
Comprehensive sexuality education is about more than just sex. It's important to remember that while sexuality education discusses sexual behavior, contraception and disease prevention, comprehensive programs are about much more. They include information about relationships, families, friendship and health. They are designed to promote critical thinking and negotiation skills so that teens can make responsible decisions throughout their lives.
What are the facts? When teens become pregnant or contract an STD, their children, and society at large often pay a significant price. The following statistics describe teens' sexual activity and show why it is important to improve efforts to prevent sexual risk-taking among teens:
Pregnancy and birth
Each year in the U.S. about 750,000 adolescent females become pregnant.
In an average week in Iowa, 73 babies are born to teen mothers.
Fifty-seven babies were born to teens in Webster County in 2007.
Almost half (48 percent) of all high school students in the United States have had sex.
Most young people have sex for the first time at about age 17, but do not marry until their middle or late 20s.
36 percent of Fort Dodge teens disagree that it is against their values to have sex.
STDs and HIV/AIDS
Every 15 seconds a teenager becomes infected with HIV in the U.S.
One out of four teens contract an STD each year.
Total cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis reached record levels in Iowa in 2007; 74 percent of the chlamydia cases were in people ages 15-24; 45 percent of the cases were to teens ages 15-19.
Consequences of teen childbearing
More than 70 percent of all teens who become pregnant drop out of high school.
Children of teen parents are more likely to be born at low birth weight, grow up poor, live in single-parent households, experience abuse and neglect and enter the child welfare system.
Daughters of teen mothers are more likely to become teen parents themselves and sons of teen mothers are more likely to be less educated and incarcerated.
The childbearing costs in 2004 for Iowa taxpayers were at least $82 million ($5,286 per teen birth).
Goal of comprehensive, science-based prevention programs. Comprehensive prevention programs seek to prevent teen pregnancy target behavior in two areas: abstinence, which enables teens to avoid pregnancy, and the correct and consistent use of contraception, which reduces the risk of pregnancy for sexually active teens. However, preventing STDs requires a more complex approach.
In addition to promoting abstinence and condom use, programs to prevent STDs can emphasize reducing the number of sexual partners, testing for and treatment of STDs and vaccination against HPV (the human papillomavirus) and hepatitis B. With one in every four teens contracting an STD each year, it is appropriate for some programs to focus on both outcomes of preventing pregnancy and preventing STDs.
The TIPP Project
Teen pregnancy is a complicated issue with many causes, and it is unreasonable to expect any single curriculum or program to prevent teen pregnancy on its own. To make a long-term impact in teen pregnancy calls for a combination of educational programs as well as efforts to engage parents and schools, address values and popular culture, improve economic conditions and more.
TIPP supports service learning programs, comprehensive and intensive youth development programs, programs to enhance school performance, and programs that facilitate strong connections to family, school and faith communities. Current funded programs include Athletics for Education Success, Teen Moms, the Webster County Health Department sexual health in-school presentations, Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa Teen Clinic and the Fort Dodge Community School's Human Growth and Development Committee's work to purchase and implement a science-based sexual health curriculum.
The TIPP Project also supports parents in their role of being the most important influence on their child's sexual health and decision making. According to the research, when youths talk back this is what they want adults to know about what they want:
"Show us why teen pregnancy is such a bad idea by letting us hear directly from teen parents and helping us understand why teen pregnancy can get in the way of reaching our goals."
"Show us what good responsible relationships look like in what you do and not just what you say."
"We really care what you think, even if we don't always act like it. Talk to us (no lectures) because we are not grown-ups."
"We hate 'the talk' as much as you do. Don't sit us down for a 'sex talk,' but start the conversation when we're young and keep the conversation going as we grow older."
"Telling us not to have sex is not enough. Explain why you feel the way you do, discuss emotions, and listen to us and take our opinions seriously."
"Even if we don't ask, we still have questions."
"If we ask about sex or contraception, don't assume we are already 'doing it,' We need to know so that we can make good decisions."
"Pay attention to us before we get into trouble by rewarding us for doing the right thing, talking with us about our interests and coming to our games and events."
"Don't leave us alone so much. Make sure we have something to do after school and if we're at a party, make sure there is an adult around."
Teen pregnancy trend
Since the early 1990s, the teen pregnancy rate has declined 38 percent and the teen birth rate has declined 32 percent. In fact, few social problems have improved quite as dramatically over the past decade-plus. The most recent news on this front, however, has not been positive. After 14 years of steady decline the Center for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the teen birth rate has seen a 5 percent increase between the years 2005 and 2007. There is no single reason why the teen birth rate rose between 2005 and 2007, just as there is no single factor influencing a teen's behavior at any given moment. It is clear a renewed focus on preventing teen pregnancy is needed.
What should be done? The sobering news about the increase in the teen birth rate may very well serve as a wake-up call for policymakers, parents, practitioners and others that the teen pregnancy and birth rates in the United States remain unacceptably high - even given the impressive overall decreases since the early 1990s. At the very least, according the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, it provides advocates and others concerned about early pregnancy and childhood an opportunity to highlight the issue and consider the following actions:
"The impressive declines in the teen pregnancy and birth rate suggest progress can be made. However, the recent increase in the teen birth rate suggests that efforts to convince young people to delay pregnancy and parenthood must be both more intense and more creative.
"The list of interventions that have been shown to be successful through rigorous research is growing. More local agencies, schools, and youth programs should adopt programs and curriculum that have evidence of success.
"Young people themselves say that more parental involvement, better sex and relationship education, and a more realistic portrayal of the consequences of teen pregnancy in popular culture may help reverse the recent increase in the teen birth rate."
TIPP's campaign motto: "I matter - no regrets"
TIPP has created a motto that gives meaning to the importance of developing positive/high self-esteem in Fort Dodge youths and teaching them how to make healthy decisions. It is our hope that every Fort Dodge youth will wear a bracelet or say the words as a reminder to avoid risk-taking behavior that leads to unintended regrets.
"I matter" symbolizes the importance of high self-esteem. Kids need to feel good about themselves, know they are unique and worthwhile, be responsible over their bodies and have purpose and goals.
"No regrets" symbolizes the importance of making good decisions. Kids need to know how to make good healthy decisions, base decisions on their family's values, and have aspirations in order to avoid risky behaviors that lead to unintended consequences.
Please join us in our efforts to let all Fort Dodge youths know they do matter and to make healthy decisions now that will lead to have "no regrets" later! Call Toni Cochrane at 574-3807 for bracelets or to come and talk to your group, club or agency - or to just find out how you can help. For more information please visit our Web site at www.webstertipp.com or call 574-3807.
Toni Cochrane is TIPP coordinator in Webster County.