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Different Programs Do Help Reduce Teen Pregnancy Rates

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Approximately 1 million teenage girls get pregnant in the United States each year, by far the highest rate of teen pregnancies of any industrialized nation, and eight out of 10 are unplanned, according to NCPTP figures. After rising 23% between 1972 and 1990, pregnancies among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 declined 17% between 1990 and 1996. The teen birth rate dropped by 20% between 1991 and 1999, to approximately 50 births per 1,000 young women.

The report, released today, highlighted several types of programs that are effective in delaying the onset of sex among teens, improving contraceptive use, and preventing pregnancy. Several programs focusing on sex and HIV education, with strong condom and contraception components, were found to successfully do all three.

Some programs that do not address sex at all, but instead get teens involved in volunteer work within the community, were found to have a significant impact on teen pregnancy.

"To be honest, we don't know why these programs are effective in reducing teen pregnancy," Kirby says. "It may be that they keep kids busy, or they may increase self esteem and cause kids to think about the future. For some very high-risk youth, participation in these programs may represent one of the first times that they are recognized by adults and the community for doing good, and that, in turn, makes them feel good about themselves."

The NCPTP report suggests that comprehensive programs incorporating a host of services for teens and preteens may be the most successful in reducing pregnancies over the long-term among high-risk adolescents. Among the best of these programs, the report found, is the Children's Aid Society Carrera program in New York.

Founded in 1985 in central Harlem by Michael A. Carrera, PhD, the program is now the model for 50 similar programs operating in 20 states. In addition to counseling and medical services, kids receive general education, sex education, and help finding after-school jobs. They are also given the opportunity to participate in sports and the performing arts.

Although other programs take a comprehensive approach to dealing with at-risk children and adolescents, Carrera says his program is unique because kids are followed closely and treated more like family than program participants.

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