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Teen births in county fell to 5-year low

July 21, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- The number of births to teenagers in Washington County in 2008 was the lowest in five years, according to preliminary statistics released this month by the Maryland Vital Statistics Administration.

There were 192 births to mothers age 19 and younger in Washington County in 2008, the preliminary report shows. That number is down 20 percent from 2007, when there were 240 such births.

Because population statistics have not been finalized for 2008, county officials do not yet know the teen birth rate, or the number of teen births per 1,000 teenagers, which allows a better comparison from year to year or from one geographic area to another, said Melissa Nearchos, project manager for the Washington County Community Partnership for Children and Families.

Nearchos said she anticipates the teen birth rate for 2008 will show a drop, as well.

"I think it's good news that the births came down, for sure," Nearchos said.

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The last year Washington County saw a drop in the number of teen births was 2005, when there were 196, reports show. Last year's total of 192 is the lowest in Washington County since 2003, when it was 186.

Nearchos said she would like to think the drop in teen births last year is a reflection of increased access to family-planning services.

For the past year and a half, Washington County has provided funding for the Community Free Clinic to hold weekly teen pregnancy prevention clinics where teens can get birth control, pregnancy testing, and sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment.

The Washington County Commissioners voted Tuesday to again award its contract for those clinical services to the Community Free Clinic, the only provider to submit a proposal for the contract. The new contract lasts from Aug. 1 of this year through June 30, 2010, and will cost the county $66,860, according to a report from purchasing agent Karen R. Luther.

That cost covers salaries and benefits, supplies, advertising, the facility, insurance, report preparation and $1,660 to buy equipment the clinic needs to burn or remove genital warts that do not respond to medical treatment, according the clinic's price report.

The commissioners' vote to award the contract was 4-1, with Commissioner William J. Wivell opposed. Wivell said he understood the need for the clinic but didn't support it "based on some of the methodologies that are being used."

The teen pregnancy prevention clinic is Thursdays at 4 p.m. at 249 Mill St. in Hagerstown. Appointments are not necessary and the clinic stays open until everyone is seen, Nearchos said. Services are available to males and females ages 13 to 19. The clinic is free and strictly confidential, with no parental contact made, Nearchos said.

Last year, the clinic had 272 family-planning visits, 150 of which were first-time visits, she said.

Nearchos said there have been improvements in educational efforts to reduce teen pregnancy in recent years.

For the past four years, the Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition has partnered with the Washington County Health Department to conduct assemblies for ninth-graders about preventing pregnancy and STDs through birth control, abstinence or delaying sexual activity, Nearchos said.

For the past two years, the coalition has conducted assemblies for sixth-graders that discuss topics like anatomy, peer pressure and understanding values, Nearchos said. Those assemblies supplement the county's family life curriculum, she said.

The drop in births to teen mothers could also reflect teenagers delaying involvement in sexual activity, but that is hard to know, she said.

It is difficult to determine the number of teen pregnancies, as distinguished from births, because statistics are not available on teenagers who have abortions or miscarriages, Nearchos said.

Teen births by age



Washington County births in 2008 by age of mother:

Younger than 15: One

15 to 17: 58

18 to 19: 133

Total 19 and younger: 192

Source: Maryland Vital Statistics Administration

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