Oklahoma’s teen birth rate still second-highest in US

BY ASSOCIATED PRESS
04/11/2018 04:30 PM
TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Oklahoma’s teen birth rate remained the country’s second-highest in 2016 for the third year in a row but it has also been declining, according to newly released data.

The Oklahoma Department of Health and the National Center for Health Statistics say the state’s rate of about 33 births per 1,000 females ages 15-19 was second only to Arkansas.

But the figures also show Oklahoma’s teen birth rate dropped by nearly 30 percent from 2012 to 2016, the Tulsa World reported.

Sharla Owens is the executive director of the nonprofit Tulsa Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. She said the numbers are cause for celebration because communities like Tulsa “have made tremendous progress.”

Tulsa County had a more than 53 percent drop in the teen birth rate from 1991 to 2016.

Owens said it has taken a multi-pronged effort to lower the state’s teen birth rate, including from nonprofits, schools, local businesses and faith-based groups, as well as educational initiatives involving parents, teachers and others.

Take Control Initiative, a Tulsa group that’s working to reduce the rate of unplanned and teenage pregnancies, is providing education, free clinical services and contraception.

Laura Bellis, program director of the initiative, said educating teens and granting access to contraception are vital to reducing the rate.

“We talk so much about prevention, and that’s how people view contraception — as a tool for prevention, and it sounds like shaming or telling people not to have kids,” Bellis said. “I wish it was a more proactive, positive conversation.”

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