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FOR RELEASE: May 2, 2000
CONTACT: Dick Gunn

"Teen Voices" Theme Promotes May as National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month

Are Oklahoma communities willing to get involved to help prevent teen pregnancies? Are they willing to involve their own youth to identify problems and find answers to those problems? That's exactly what the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is asking local communities to do during May, which is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.

Health department statistics indicate there were 7,998 births to women under age 20 in Oklahoma in 1998, compared to 8,404 births in 1997. Oklahoma teen birth trends decreased slightly by 1.3 percent in 1997 and 1998.

"We believe that involving teens is beginning to make a difference. It helps to make programs relevant to what is happening today in their lives. We find that teens are resources and valuable partners in helping to solve problems," said J.R. Nida, M.D., commissioner of health. "Communities around the country increasingly recognize that helping teens avoid pregnancy can't be accomplished by any single program or strategy. It's going to take many different approaches." Health officials say there are eight good reasons for communities to involve teens in the planning and implementation of teen pregnancy prevention programs. They are:

  1. Youth involvement itself can help prevent teen pregnancy.
  2. Teens can design authentic programs that speak to their real needs.
  3. Teen involvement may create a favorable reputation for a program among teens.
  4. Teens themselves often are the best recruiters for a program.
  5. Teens can help develop messages that make a difference.
  6. Teens can help hire staff whom young people will respond to.
  7. Teens can help design an accessible program and suggest sites, activities and hours of service to create a program that works.
  8. Teens can help keep a program strong by providing automatic feedback to make small, ongoing improvements.

"We have set a goal in the year 2000 and moving forward to involve more local communities to improve health, especially in the area of teen pregnancy prevention," Nida said. He offered these examples of year 2000 teen pregnancy prevention initiatives:

LeFlore County: The slogan contest winning message, "The Choice for Me is Kid Free! Prevent Teen Pregnancy" will be used in that county during May.

Atoka County: Public service announcements were made for radio; some fact sheets and a mayor's proclamation will be distributed.

Oklahoma County: A poster contest by the Oak Grove Teen Pregnancy Prevention Project with local prizes by business sponsors will be held and winning posters will be featured in a calendar for next school year.

Jackson County: Will feature a middle school poster contest, mayor's proclamation and teen booth.

Tillman County: Will hold a parent university forum and distribute special prom favors with awareness statements.

Harmon County: Will feature a poster contest, proclamation and prom favors.

Pittsburg County: Will have a proclamation, information sheets and make radio public service announcements.

Comanche County: Will host an essay contest with cash prizes, a booth at the May Drug-Free Fair and a story in the local newspaper.

Ottawa County: Will have a "Great Date Contest" where students write a description of a creative date that involves sexual abstinence. Local businesses are donating prizes from movie passes to meals.

For information about teen pregnancy prevention programs, call Marilyn Lanphier, OSDH Adolescent Health Program, 405/271-4470.


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