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Letter to the editor
- Teen pregnancy rate misleading
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This is in response to the recent article in the Standard regarding Tennessee Teen Pregnancy Rates.
The Teen Pregnancy Rate, which the CDC reports, is based on a rate or number per 1,000 females between the ages of 15-17. Van Buren County does not have 1,000 females between the ages of 15-17 so the teen pregnancy rate that is reported is based on a projection.
When most people see the rates of teen pregnancy, they do not read the rate as a number per 1,000 females. They read it as a percentage and assume that our pregnancy rate is 54.8 percent, or basically one out of every two females. This is far from the truth.
In 2013, Van Buren County had a population of 252 females between the ages of 10-17. Out of those 252 females, five of them were pregnant. This is a percentage of 1.9 percent. This is an actual percent based on actual living, breathing females-not a projection of what might be or could be if we had 1,000 females.
The methodology of reporting the Teen Pregnancy Rate by a rate per 1,000, rather than an actual percentage is misleading. Small, rural counties seem to be most negatively impacted by this method of reporting. In areas where the population is very small, even one or two pregnancies can create a significant increase in the pregnancy rate.
However, as a school system, we do recognize that even one teen pregnancy is too many and that teen pregnancy often has a negative effect on one's education.
Dr. Charles E. Basch has done much research regarding the health factors which have a negative effect on student learning and education, and teen pregnancy has been identified as the No. 1 reason that girls in this age group drop out of school.
Teen pregnancy is associated with adverse educational, health, and economic outcomes for both mothers and children. Teens who become pregnant are less likely to complete high school or college. For those who manage to stay in school, pregnancy raises major obstacles to academic achievement and substantially exacerbates the challenge of completing high school and going to college.
To address teen pregnancy, the Van Buren County School System is partnering with Centerstone's Prevention Services. They will be providing an abstinence-focused program, called Be in Charge 2 in our school system, grades 7-12, for at least the next five years. 
This program provides students with medically accurate information of teen pregnancy and STD/HIV prevention using the Making a Difference! evidence-based curriculum. The Be in Charge 2 program is fully funded by a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Adolescent Health.

Kelly L. Lewis
Van Buren County Schools
Coordinated School Health
Sparta Street