Reality of pregnancy

Campaign emphasizes facts about teenage birth rates

Campaign emphasizes facts about teenage birth rates

June 06, 2005|by TARA REILLY

HALFWAY - The next time you settle into your seat at the movies, you're likely to get more than just entertainment on the big screen.

Over the next several weeks, you'll probably be hit with a surprising statistic - 2 out of 5 girls get pregnant by the age of 20 - and other messages about young pregnancies.

Washington County Health Department and community officials kicked off a 14-week ad campaign May 13 that uses the movie screens at Regal Valley Mall Stadium 16 to spread teen pregnancy prevention awareness.


The three ads, which run before movies of all ratings, send blunt messages.

"If you think a condom ruins the mood, just think what a pregnancy test will do," states one ad.

"Sex won't make him yours, and a baby won't make him stay," another one states.

The third ad, that claims 2 out of 5 girls get pregnant by age 20, was taken from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, Melissa Nearchos, senior project coordinator for Washington County Community Partnership for Children and Families, said in a phone interview.

The ads also state that teens can receive confidential help from the Health Department about sexually transmitted diseases and other information by calling 240-313-3296.

The Health Department worked with Community Partnership and the Interagency Committee on Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention and Parenting (ICAPPP) on the campaign to reduce the county's high teen pregnancy rate.

In 2003, 185 Washington County females ages 15 to 19 gave birth, the Health Department has said.

The birth rate that year was 45 births per every 1,000 in that age group.

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

The message the Health Department wants to send is that abstinence is the best way to avoid teen pregnancy, but if teens are having sex, they need to protect themselves from getting pregnant and contracting sexually transmitted diseases, Health Officer William Christoffel said.

The movie ads are intended to deliver that message in a direct way, he said.

"That's what they need," Christoffel said.

Nearchos said Community Partnership received a $5,000 state grant toward the local movie ad campaign.

Health Department spokesman Rod MacRae said Thursday that the county's high teen pregnancy rate is a community problem and requires the efforts of various groups to help reduce young pregnancies.

"We need the churches. We need the families. We need the parents involved," MacRae said. "We want to encourage people to ... abstain, but we have to accept our responsibility to those who choose not to."

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