Franklin’s teen-pregnancy rate twice the state average

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 14, 2008

FRANKLIN—Teenage-pregnancy rates and infant-mortality rates in the city are more than double the state averages, according to the Western Tidewater Health District.

In 2006, according to recently released statistics, Franklin’s teen-pregnancy rate was 61.9 per 1,000 females. Neighboring Isle of Wight and Southampton counties’ rates were 27 and 26.7, respectively.

Statewide, total teen pregnancies in 2006 were 3,704; of those, 2,716 were in Planning District 20, which includes Isle of Wight and Southampton counties and the cities of Franklin, Chesapeake, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Suffolk and Virginia Beach. Thirty-seven were in Franklin out of a population of 598 females ages 10-19; 59 in Isle of Wight from 2,183 females in that age group; and 29 of 1,086 in Southampton.

Franklin school officials say there are already initiatives in place at the high school level to address the issue, but more discussions will ensue in August.

&uot;The high school works very hard to bring teenage mothers back to school,&uot; said Bev Rabil, associate director of instruction for Franklin City Public Schools.

&uot;We are aware that it is an issue. We are working on collaborating with the high school and middle school, and we are looking at involving more community agency representatives as we flesh out ideas on how to be more proactive.&uot;

Rabil said she and guidance counselors from all three schools will meet to identify variables and at-risk factors that affect teens, such as pregnancy, drugs, tobacco and other student health issues, such as obesity.

Afterward, the ideas can be presented to the schools’ Safe and Drug-Free Schools Health Advisory Committee &uot;to seek their insight on how we can work on (the issue) from the school angle, the community angle and the home angle,&uot; she said.

Beth Reavis, director of the city’s Department of Social Services, said that while she has been discussing the issue with officials to see what can be done about pregnancy prevention, the state agency that is charged with dealing with the issue is the health department.

&uot;I don’t have any staff or funds, but as a community leader, I can bring people together.

&uot;It can be a very controversial issue. Some feel that abstinence is the only education.&uot;

Dr. Lisa McCoy, director of the Western Tidewater Health District, said that teenage pregnancy affects other issues, such as the infant mortality rate.

&uot;The leading cause of infant mortality rates is congenital malformation, but the next is gestation (issues) such as low birth weight, maternal complications and accidents.

&uot;All of these things we can impact by educating and supporting the mother — and resources, which are key, to decrease the mortality rates.&uot;

In April, the Western Tidewater Health District received a $544,000 grant from the Obici Healthcare Foundation to &uot;expand pre-natal services for indigent and uninsured women of child-bearing age in Franklin and Suffolk.&uot;

One of the goals of the project is to decrease teen-pregnancy rates in Western Tidewater through programs that &uot;build self-esteem in adolescent and teen girls and offer support services that encourage delaying sexual activity and the appropriate use of birth control options among those sexually active.&uot;