Teens Need Our Help to Stay Healthy

    Did you know that one in three young women in the U.S. become pregnant before they even turn 20?


    By Edna Chandler


    They don’t always ask, but teens need our help with so many things: homework, learning to drive, dating — and yes, avoiding pregnancy. While the teen pregnancy rate has declined significantly over the last two decades, it’s still a serious issue [in insert community/state].  May was National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month and it’s a good reminder that we all need to help teens get the information and resources they need to stay healthy and prevent pregnancy until they’re ready to become parents. 


    Did you know that one in three young women in the U.S. become pregnant before they even turn 20? In fact, nearly 750,000 teenagers in this country will become pregnant this year alone.  Getting pregnant as a teen can have serious consequences for a young person’s future. Becoming a parent as a teenager affects young people’s ability to finish school, influences their ability to make a living, and affects their children in numerous ways.   


    For some communities, teen pregnancy is even more of an issue. Latino teen pregnancy and birth rates are more than 1.5 times higher than the national average, and Latina teens are more likely than non-Latina white teens to have a repeat teen birth. The birth rate for African-American teens is more than twice that of non-Latina white teens. Lesbian and bisexual teenagers are twice as likely as their heterosexual peers to become pregnant unintentionally.


    The good news is that we know what works to prevent teen pregnancy. Research shows that comprehensive sex education — the type of education provided by Planned Parenthood — helps young people delay sex and increases the use of contraception and condoms when they do become sexually active.  Comprehensive sex education is supported by organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics — and by a majority of Americans, including a majority of both parents and teens. A whopping 93 percent of parents say that birth control should be covered in high school sex education programs, and 78 percent want this information provided to students in middle school. Teenagers themselves are desperate for education ─ over three-quarters of teens aged 15-17 say that they need more information about birth control, HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted infections.


    Planned Parenthood understands how important good sex education is to keeping teens healthy, and is committed to helping teens make good decisions and engage in healthy behavior. Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando (PPGO) provides education to 15,000 people in Central Florida, and works year-round to help teens stay healthy, with high-quality, teen-friendly services, including free or low-cost birth control, and education programs that culturally competent and proven to work.


    Another way to grab teens’ attention is through technology, so Planned Parenthood has created an array of digital education tools to help young people stay healthy and plan for their futures. These tools bring together age-appropriate sex education with activities that teens enjoy doing online. When teens have the education they need — literally on their phones — they make smarter decisions. 


    Teens can also find information and submit questions on Planned Parenthood’s Info for Teens page, as well as through our Facebook and Twitter pages. There’s also a chat/text program that allows teens to ask urgent questions of trained experts during urgent moments of need when they need fast, confidential assistance at www.plannedparenthood.org/chat or by texting 774636.


    Planned Parenthood’s website provides numerous resources for parents, including a series of interactive videos with information on talking to teens about sex and relationships; helpful hints on getting the conversation started; setting boundaries; helping teens delay sex; parenting LBGTQ teens; and more.


    Research shows that sex education and access to contraception make a real difference in preventing teen pregnancy. We need to continue working to ensure that young people get the information and services they need to prevent both pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases — so that our sons and daughters can reach their goals and have the brightest futures possible.


    Edna Chandler is the Director of Education for Planned Parenthood of Greater Orlando.