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Report outlines methods to curb teen pregnancy

Nearly every day a girl between the ages of 10 and 19 in Charlottesville and Albermarle County gets pregnant, according to the local Council on Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention.

In response to such statistics, the Task Force on Teen Pregnancy Prevention issued a report Friday recommending cost-effective, preventative programs for families, churches, schools, businesses, service groups and health care professionals.

The task force was created two years ago as the result of a Charlottesville-Albermarle County town meeting entitled "Partners in Teen Pregnancy and STD Prevention."

The task force includes six University faculty members, and other professionals from a wide range of community groups in the area.

The task force also is addressing a compilation of studies that show teenage mothers are more likely to have complications with childbirth, depend on public welfare, never complete high school, have fewer employment skills and raise a family in poverty.

One of the task force's primary recommendations is to expand existing programs that have proved effective in preventing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.

Although there are some effective programs out there, they are not being used enough, said Jack Marshall, task force chairman and a retired international consultant on family planning.

"High school kids often aren't aware" of available programs, Marshall said. "There are still clinical facilities which are underutilized."

The task force also "recommends that kids in early adolescence get routine check-ups" to avoid contracting STDs, said Dyan Aretakis, a task force member and project director of the University's Teen Health Center.

While reported incidents of teen pregnancy in Charlottesville and Albermarle County have dropped, contractions of STDs have increased.

Marshall attributes this phenomenon to the fact that despite an increase in contraceptive use among adolescents, condom use has decreased, and too few sexually active teens are getting screened for STDs.

"People need to use both condoms and contraceptive methods" and not contraception alone, Marshall said.

Funding for improvements to preventative programs should come from both private endorsements and taxpayer dollars, he said.

Putting money into preventative programs is a sound investment, said Joseph Allen, psychology professor and task force member.

"Local and national research points to a return of two to five dollars for each dollar spent" on teen pregnancy and STD prevention, Allen said.

Each teen pregnancy costs Virginia an average of $15,500, according to the Council on Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention.

The task force also recommended donations from the private sector be used to establish a position for a full-time professional who would coordinate community efforts to reduce STDs and teen pregnancy in Charlottesville and Albemarle County.

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