SEABROOK SAYS: Who here in Gaston County would have ever thought we could be giving thanks and giving back as we have? Read what Carrie Meier has to say. Who would have thought teen pregnancy would be reduced by 57.2% in a relatively short period? We have proven we can do more – now let’s dedicate ourselves to doing even more. NOW THAT YOU KNOW, WHAT WILL YOU DO?
The holidays are upon us and we often see this as a time to give thanks for what we have, to give back to our community, to reflect on what has happened throughout the year, and to gather together with family and friends. For those of us who work in teen pregnancy prevention and reproductive health, we have much to consider this holiday season.
According to data recently released from the State Center for Health Statistics, Gaston County’s teen pregnancy rate dropped for the eighth year in a row in 2015. Since 2007, our teen pregnancy rate declined by an incredible 57.2%. I am extremely thankful to see this number continue to fall. I am thankful for the five years of funding, attention, and resources that the Gaston Youth Connected (GYC) project brought to address this issue in our community. I am even more thankful for those who have continued to stay involved and dedicated to this cause now that millions of dollars are no longer at play. If you have provided accurate information about sex to a young person, coordinated a sex education program at your church or home, joined the Teen Action Council, attended a teen pregnancy community advisory meeting, or helped a youth make an appointment at the Teen Wellness Center, I thank you.
So maybe you haven’t been involved in the effort to curb teen pregnancy… yet. Here are some ways you can help and give back to your community.
- Tell the young people in your life that you care about them and are available to answer their questions about sensitive topics. Their health and their futures are worth enduring an uncomfortable conversation.
- If you aren’t feeling up to #1, use your resources! Gaston County DHHS has programs to educate young people about puberty and sex AND programs to educate parents and other adults on how to talk to young people about these issues. There are also excellent websites with tips and good information – check out SHIFT NC or Advocates for Youth to start.
- Talk to leaders at your child’s school about the importance of comprehensive sex education. For many youth, school is their only source of sex education outside of the media, which can be highly inaccurate and biased.
Though we’ve seen great success in Gaston County, we still have work to do. Our teen pregnancy rate is still higher than the State’s. The rates among minorities are still disproportionally high when compared to those of young white women. In fact, from 2014 to 2015, there was a slight increase in the teen pregnancy rate among African Americans in Gaston County. We need to focus our efforts to ensure that this does not become a trend. We cannot allow our minority youth to fall victim to cycles we have worked so hard to break. We can’t do it alone. We need your help.
Each quarter, DHHS hosts a Community Advisory Council meeting on the topic of Teen Pregnancy Prevention. This group, affectionately called GYC 2.0, has adopted the mission of Supporting efforts that empower Gaston County youth and their families to make safe and healthy decisions. We need as many people as possible to advocate for this mission, to be aware of the work that is still happening, and to spread the word far and wide. We need your participation and your support. Join us.
Happy holidays to all.
Carrie Meier is the Community Health Education Administrator at the Gaston County Department of Health & Human Services. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 704-862-5405.