Working to Prevent Teen Pregnancy in Tulsa
Teen pregnancy is a critical issue in Oklahoma. Oklahoma ranks second highest in the nation for teen birth rates among 15-19 year olds and first highest among 18-19 year olds, according to recently released data from National Center for Health Statistics. Research from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy shows that childbearing in Oklahoma costs taxpayers an estimated $169 million annually.
Teen pregnancy in Tulsa is a growing concern that has a deep impact on the community; it impacts high school graduation rates, college attendance, workforce development, family stability and the economy.Pregnancy or parenthood is cited as a key reason why one third of teen girls drop out of high school. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, children born to teen mothers have higher rates of cognitive and social challenges, and are twice as likely to repeat a grade, compared to children born to non-teen mothers. The economic, social and health costs of teen birth rates in Oklahoma are substantial. Tulsa County experienced a 20% decline in teen birth rates from 2012 to 2013, which is encouraging. However, progress is not victory. We still have work to do.
Through community collaboration, teen birth rates in Tulsa can continue to shrink at a rate that keeps up with the rest of the country. The Tulsa Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, which was launched in November 2013, is using evidenced-based approaches to lower Oklahoma’s teen birth rates by building strategic partnerships with the local schools, businesses, community groups, health centers and faith-based organizations to lower teen birth rates in Tulsa. Parents play a substantial role in preventing teen pregnancy as well. As part of its wide community and systems-level reach, the Campaign is a resource that empowers parents and adults to have conversations about sex and healthy relationships with the young people in their lives.
Let’s Talk Month is a national initiative that takes place every October. The Tulsa Campaign is using Let’s Talk Month as an opportunity for community and business leaders, faith-based organizations, parent groups, schools and colleges, media outlets, health providers and others to discuss the role that parents and adults can play to help teens make good decisions about their future – including decisions about love, sex and pregnancy. Experts in education and health agree that to positively impact young people’s knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related to sex, they need ongoing conversations and trusting connections with the adults close to them.
Although talking to young people about love, sex and relationships is not easy, it makes a difference. The Tulsa Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy offers the following tips for parents to start the conversation:
Don’t count on your child to come to you with questions. Begin the conversation yourself, and start sooner rather than later. Share your family’s values to help them understand why the conversation is important to you.
Listen as much as you talk.
Carefully listening lets your child know they are important to you. This can lead to valuable discussions about a wide range of sensitive issues.
Whatever your child’s age, they need age-appropriate and honest information. Honesty will build trust for further talks.
Let your child think and process at his or her own pace. Listen to what your child is saying daily about the people, places and situations they encounter in their everyday lives. Regular, everyday moments are a perfect chance to start talking. Television shows and commercials are a great way to talk about peer pressure, sex and/or relationships.
Most children only want small bits of information at any one time, especially about heavy topics like sex, love and relationships. They will not learn everything from a single discussion, so keep the conversation going regularly.
Lowering teen birth rates in Oklahoma requires a serious investment of time, money and energy. Whether you are a parent, business owner, teacher, community leader or simply an Oklahoma resident, you must consider how teen pregnancy impacts your community, then take action and start the conversation.
To learn more about the issue, the Tulsa Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy’s efforts and how you can take part in Let’s Talk Month, please visit www.TulsaCampaign.org.
Kimberly Biedler Schutz serves as Executive Director of the Tulsa Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Schutz provides the vision, leadership and management to achieve the Campaign’s mission to improve the health and economic well-being of individuals and the City of Tulsa by preventing teen pregnancy in the community. She enjoys spending time with her husband, Brandon, and their two sons, Samuel and Campbell.