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Group aims to reduce teen birth rate

Washington County pregnancy prevention coalition speaks to commissioners

Washington County pregnancy prevention coalition speaks to commissioners

January 16, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY ? Members of the Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition say they want to reduce the teen birth rate, but won't be disappointed if they don't see an immediate change.

Such reductions take time, and Meredith Williams, coalition president, said it could be several more years before the effects of the group's aggressive campaign are seen.

Williams and Coalition Director Carrol Lourie spoke Tuesday with Washington County Commissioners and the Board of Education about the work the group has done since its formation as a task force about three years ago, and about its future needs.

According to data from 2004, Washington County has the fourth-highest teen birth rate in the state, behind Baltimore City, and Caroline and Dorchester counties on the Eastern Shore. Howard County has the lowest teen birth rate.

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Lourie said Washington County has the highest birth rate in Maryland among white teens.

Lourie said the coalition received $14,800 from the county through the Community Action Council. She said the group would like to receive the same amount again this year and continue to supplement the remainder of its budget through grants.

Lourie said the coalition plans to continue its education efforts in the county's schools. She has presented information about the risks associated with teenage sex to students and parents. Longer presentations have been given during assemblies, but Lourie said it's important to follow up with students about the messages they receive there.

About 1,000 parents have been given "tool kits," which are folders containing information like how to talk to their teens about sex. Teenagers have been told by the coalition through advertisements and other means about responsible decision making.

The coalition is, for the second year, seeking entries for a contest aimed at spreading the coalition's message. Print advertisements, 30-second videos, short films and radio advertisements will be judged, and more than $4,500 in cash prizes will be awarded. The deadline to enter is Feb. 29.

Lourie said pregnancy rate data is unavailable because statistics on the number of teens who miscarry or have an abortion are not known. She's hoping that birth rate data for teens in Washington County in 2006 will be available in the next month or so.

"We know several hundred teens gave birth but we don't know our ranking overall," she said.




ยท To contact the Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition, call 301-671-3000.

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