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Bet teens can craft anti-pregnancy ads

A $5,000

December 28, 2006

Is there another country in the world with greater access to more facts about pregnancy and birth control than the United States?

Probably not. From the Internet to the public library to Family Life classes in school, young people have tons of information available.

But for some reason, the word isn't getting through. Or if it is, it's being ignored.

Why? Some believe it's because the anti-pregnancy messages are being designed mostly by adults, who have no real idea how to communicate with teens who are, in many cases, questioning everything adults tell them.

So why not let the teens spread the message? That's just what the Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition has in mind.

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With money from a grant, the coalition is sponsoring a contest with more than $5,000 in cash prizes for those who develop the best print ads, 30-second video spots and 10-minute short films.

For details on how to enter - the deadline is March 1, 2007 - go to www.unitedwaywashcounty.org.

To see ads done by other young people, go to www.teenpregnancy.org.

The main rule is that the message of the ads should be centered on the theme, "Sex Has Consequences."

That's the message that public health officials have tried to get across using he sources mentioned earlier.

It's not a complicated message - the longer a teen delays pregnancy, the more likely she and her baby will be healthy.

Delaying pregnancy also means that it's less likely that mother and child will slip into a life of poverty, abuse and addictions.

As noted in the county's September 2005 Teen Pregnancy Prevention Needs Assessment report, the U.S. continues to have "the highest teen pregnancy and teen birth rates in the fully industrialized world."

It's worse here in Washington County. When the report was released, the county had the fourth-highest teen birth rate in Maryland and the highest for white teens.

In August of this year, The (Baltmore) Sun looked at this county and found that while the adolescent birth rate has dropped by a third in the U.S. and slightly more than that in Maryland, in Washington County, it has continued "unchecked."

In August, The Sun reported that preliminary estimates suggested that there would be no decrease in teen births here in 2005-06.

Even community members who have no children need to pay attention to this problem. In March 2005, William Christoffel, then the county's health officer, estimated that the cost of caring for one teen mother was $140,000 - half of which was paid by local taxpayers.

Want to reduce your costs and the poverty rate in Washington County at the same time? Then support the work of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition and encourage the creative young people you know to devise messages that will convince their peers that adults, not teenagers, should be parents.

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