Angie Barber, director of the Phoebe Network of Trust, says that teen pregnancies costs communities millions of dollars every year.
ALBANY -- Teen pregnancies have declined in Dougherty County and that was a reason to celebrate Wdnesday at a community luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn. Girls Inc. and the Phoebe Network of Trust held the event to recognize National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
While not matching the national teen pregnancy decline of 44 percent from 1991 through 2010, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dougherty's 25 percent reduction of pregnancies for girls ages 15-19 since 1994 is good news. Dougherty's teen pregnancy rate remains at 84.1 per 1,000 girls, compared to 61.0 per 1,000 girls statewide.
"Just five, 10 or 20 years ago we couldn't stand here and reflect on our progress," said Angie Barber, director, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital's Network of Trust, and one of two speakers at the event. "It's because of what is happening every day in this community."
Barber said it's "well known" that as teen pregnancy decreases, absenteeism drops and graduation rates go up.
"Teen pregnancies costs communities millions upon millions every year all over the world," Barber said. "If we decrease it, we'll have a more qualified work force and the level of poverty will decrease. It's truly about educating and sharing, helping and loving."
Phoebe's Network of Trust, according to organization sources, is a grant-funded project with goals that include decreasing repeat pregnancies and child abuse, increasing self-esteem and preventing school dropout. The network is available to all pregnant teens in Dougherty, Calhoun, Lee, Terrell and Worth counties.
According to Network officials, the program attempts to reach teens during the early stages of first pregnancy to improve prenatal care. A "stay in school" focus is provided. In addition, the Network provides adult role models to speak on a variety of issues relating to teen parenting, emotional and physical health.
Barber commended a number of Network partners with the common goal of decreasing teen pregnancies, including Girls Inc., the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention (G-CAPP) and the Taking Time for Teens Coalition, which brings together more than 30 area organizations involved with a variety of teen issues. G-CAPP is a statewide organization founded by Jane Fonda in the mid-1990s. According to G-CAPP, the group attempts to lower Georgia teen pregnancy rates by addressing "social antecedents which lie beneath the problem," including school failure, poverty, behavior, violence, child abuse and questionable parenting.
Also speaking at the luncheon was Damary M. Bonilla-Rodriquez, Latina initiative project manager for Girls Inc. of New York. Bonilla-Rodriquez addressed the teen pregnancy rates of Latina girls nationwide, which are significantly higher than rates for both African-American and Caucasian girls. The speaker said while Dougherty's Latina population is currently much smaller than that of some surrounding counties, area teen pregnancy rates appear to be closely following those of the nation as a whole.