Agencies encouraged by Ohio teen birth rate decline, but say work isn't over

HAMILTON, OH (FOX19) - The state's birth rate among teens has dropped to a 21-year low. Experts say that reflects less sex and more contraceptives and health officials say declines suggest teens are responding to the fear of STD's and economic anxieties of becoming a parent.

The Ohio Department of Health reports that last year there were 34 births among every 1,000 girls between 15 and 19 years old -- That's compared to 39 in 2009 and 41 in 2008. The state health department also credits awareness programs and intervention for the significant decline in the teen birth rate.

"There was a huge gap within this region regarding prevention," said Jennifer Kruger, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Director at the YWCA.

Recognizing a large gap in resources for teens in the community, the YWCA in Hamilton stepped in to provide a  five year federally funded Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program program to curb teen pregnancy and STD's.
"The pregnancy rate in Butler County was so high, and especially in Hamilton there weren't many resources for teens to go to," said Sherrie Bluester, director of the YWCA.
Kruger speaks to teen girls at schools and community centers, teaching prevention and awareness, using the Focus on Butler County curriculum, reaching out to nearly 700 teen girls a year.
"The program is implemented in multi-sessions, we cover all aspects of sexually transmitted infections, forms of contraception, negotiating with your partner," Kruger said.
"I think it gives them the opportunity to hear other things that they have not thought about, it gives them options, because many teens, especially our teens girls don't see themselves as having options," Bluester said.
While organizers are optimistic about state and local numbers showing a decline in the teen birth rate, they say the rising rate of STD infection indicates they still have a long road ahead.
"Southwest Ohio actually has the highest rates of sexually transmitted infections in 15 to 19 year old people, and so there is definitely a need for that education and that prevention," Kruger said.
The prevention program recently expanded to surrounding counties, including Warren, Montgomery and Hamilton Counties.

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