Group works to raise awareness of teen pregnancy in Calhoun County (Battle Creek Enquirer)

Published April 14, 2013, by Battle Creek Enquirer.

Written by Andy Fitzpatrick of the Enquirer.

Published: 04.14.13| Updated: 04.14.13

There are statistics about teen pregnancy in Calhoun County, and then there are those who don’t think they tell the whole story.

In Michigan, Calhoun County has one of the highest rates of teenagers between 15 and 19 years old getting pregnant. According to the Michigan Department of Community Health and Reported by The Coordinating Council, the rate of teen pregnancy was consistently higher here than the state average between 2006 and 2010.

The University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute’s County Health Rankings and Roadmaps report has the same determination for teen birth rates from 2010 through today.

On the second level of the Battle Creek Community Foundation, though, a group of people are trying to figure out what can be done about it.

The Teen Pregnancy Prevention Partnership of Calhoun County, or TP3, is a collection of members of various agencies that, one way or another, want to figure out how to make the community aware of this problem.

TP3 is part of the Regional Health Alliance.

“It’s a real down-to-earth group, but what they are is impassioned,” Paulette Porter, director of the Regional Health Alliance and BCCF’s health programming, said. “They have a passion about making a difference.”

TP3 has monthly meetings at the foundation’s headquarters and isn’t new. As far back as 2002, the organization was meeting and discussing these issues.

Thursday, the meeting was attended by people from the Substance Abuse Council, Battle Creek Central High School, the Calhoun County Public Health Department, Planned Parenthood and more.

“We have people representing faith-based groups and the abstinence piece,” Porter said. “We have people representing the opposite extreme. They all come together, they’re all collegial, they’re all friendly, with one goal in mind: reducing our teen pregnancy, births and decreasing sexually transmitted infections.”

There were a few items on the agenda that day. A new member from CityLinC Ministries started attending, and was giving a presentation on her group’s background. A discussion of how a recent development with AccessVision was going took place.

That was a part of the group’s recent focus of awareness.

“We realized that there’s a lot of things going on, and oftentimes, all we read about is the indicators about how poorly Calhoun County does as it relates to incidents of teen pregnancies in the state of Michigan,” Calhoun County’s public health officer, Jim Rutherford, said.

The statistics, he said, are well known; what’s less well known is that this group is working on it and wants to hear from more people.

Ashley Choker is the Community Outreach Educator for Planned Parenthood’s Battle Creek Health Center. She said TP3 is trying to reach out to different populations in the community.

“I think the community is doing a good job of trying to address those populations, but those of us in that room know it and outside of these walls, people don’t know it,” Choker said.

In Calhoun County, between 2000 and 2010, the teen pregnancy rate has fallen by about 30 percent, according to the group.

Rutherford said there were a couple of reasons people may not think of teen pregnancy as a health problem they should be worried about.

“While we probably could be putting more resources towards this issue, there are things that are being done. It takes more than just people that are in public health, for instance, or in education,” Rutherford said. “It takes an entire community and there’s a lot of factors that come into play when we talk about teen pregnancy rates.”

The Journal of Adolescent Health reported that pregnant teens are likely to receive late or no prenatal care compared to older women, and certain health issues such as gestational hypertension could be more common. The Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology said teen mothers are more likely to give birth to low-birthweight babies, which can lead to increased likelihood of illnesses and death.

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