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Consultant hired to study county's teen birth rate

February 23, 2005|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

In an effort to reduce Washington County's teenage birth rate, the County Commissioners on Tuesday hired a Mount Airy, Md., consultant to study the problem and offer ways to prevent teen pregnancy.

Shattuck & Associates Inc. will be paid $50,000 to perform the four-month Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Needs Assessment.

The cost of the study will be paid for with a grant from the Governor's Office for Children, Youth and Families and the Governor's Council on Adolescent Pregnancy.

Earlier this month, Washington County Health Officer William Christoffel said the county's teen birth rate is consistently among the highest in the state and nation.

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In 2003, 185 Washington County females ages 15 to 19 gave birth. The birth rate that same year was 45 births per every 1,000 females in that age group, Christoffel has said.

That rate was the fourth highest among the 24 jurisdictions in the state. It also was higher than the state's rate of 33 births per 1,000 females and the national rate of 41.7 for teens in the 15 to 19 age group.

"It's one of our major issues ..." Stephanie Stone, executive director of Washington County Community Partnership for Children and Families, told the County Commissioners on Tuesday.

Community Partnership received the state grant and then recommended that Shattuck & Associates be hired to do the assessment.

The main focus of the study will be on what parents and teenagers have to say about teenage pregnancy and prevention.

Goals of the assessment are to gauge the awareness of the teen pregnancy problem, assess the attitudes, values and behaviors of teenagers and parents and to suggest prevention measures. The assessment will tentatively begin on March 1 and end on June 30.

Stone said religious organizations would be consulted in the assessment and that the school system's health curriculum would be reviewed.

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