Teen Pregnancy is a public health issue because it is so common and is associated with many negative consequences for both the pregnant teen and the child or children.
When looking at the data we observe that infants born to a teen mother are more likely to have lower birth weights, and have a higher rate of infant mortality, as well as increased risk of hospital admissions throughout their early childhood. The data also shows that these children also grow up in less supportive home environments, have poorer cognitive development, and are more likely to have a teen pregnancy themselves. For the teen mother they are more likely to be socially isolated, have mental health problems, and have fewer opportunities for employment and education. Teen mothers and fathers are less likely to be financially secure and this makes it more likely for families to perpetuate the cycle of inter-generational poverty.
TriCounty Health Department offers the Teen Outreach Program (TOP) at several schools as an after school club. TOP is a teen pregnancy prevention program. However, it also provides youth with the skills to be successful in life. TOP is a suicide prevention program, substance abuse prevention program, and life skills program. It is truly a positive youth development program where well trained adults go into the schools and teach the youth life skills and provide them with volunteer opportunities. The instructors provide the education and insight so youth can choose a life path for themselves, understand how to take responsibility for their actions and their future decisions. Honestly, I’ve been teaching this program in schools for 3 going on 4 years now and have never even discussed teen pregnancy with any of the youth. We have seen our teen pregnancy rates begin to decrease in part I believe to this program.
The program is based on a National Curriculum that instead of focusing on teen pregnancy as a topic of discussion focuses on building their skills, and teaching them how to think instead of what to think. Again, this is to give them the tools they need, and the confidence to choose their path for themselves with a better understanding of the decision making process as well as consequences associated with their decisions.
Each week we focus on a topic or service idea. Some of the topics we’ve covered this year include communication, empathy, emotion management, health and wellness, goal setting, identity, and more. For service we really try to make this meaningful by giving them what we call the CSL glow. Which is that feel good feeling where they accomplished something, they helped someone, and they did something challenging to better themselves and their community. We also try to utilize our service hours to build their skills a little more. This year we built a community garden in Vernal and it was constructed 100% by the youth. They learned how to measure out the boards, cut the boards using a saw, and how to use a drill to assemble their planter boxes
(Don’t worry, everyone had consent forms signed to do this and we taught safety while using these tools as well).
Overall, we want to teach youth that there is more they can do, more they can accomplish, and that they do have the power to accomplish whatever they want in life. Our goal is to provide youth the tools needed to take ownership of their lives, and provide the means for success for themselves, and their future families.