NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Department of Health joins the nation on May 5 in observing the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. This annual health observance, part of National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, was established in 2002 to remind teenagers about the importance of avoiding pregnancy, parenthood and other serious consequences of sex.
“We want Tennessee teenagers to use the National Day as an opportunity to think carefully before engaging in sexual activity,” said Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper, MSN, RN. “The message is straightforward: sex has consequences. The goal is to urge young people to make a plan for avoiding early pregnancy and parenthood, and to understand that it can happen to them.”
More than 3,400 adolescent girls in Tennessee became mothers in 2008, the most recent year for which data are available. Statistics show the babies born to these teen parents are more likely to be born prematurely and have related health problems, suffer abuse and neglect, perform more poorly in school and even to wind up in prison than children born to older parents. Less than half of mothers who have a child before they are 18 graduate from high school. Studies also show teen fathers have less education and earn far less money than teenage boys without children.
There are many benefits from delaying sexual activity and early parenthood:
Children of older parents are more likely to grow up with financial stability, live in homes with both parents and avoid the child welfare system.
Girls who do not become parents as teens are more likely to finish high school and pursue higher education, get married and avoid poverty.
Daughters of older mothers are less likely to become teen parents themselves.
On National Day, teens in Tennessee and nationwide are asked to go to www.StayTeen.org and take a short quiz. The quiz is available in English and Spanish and challenges young people to think carefully about what they would do in a number of risky sexual situations.
In addition to the online quiz, the National Campaign also offers an online game with puzzles testing teens’ knowledge about issues related to teen pregnancy. Those who complete the puzzles will be eligible to win prizes.
The Department of Health has compiled a comprehensive calendar of events planned across Tennessee for the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. You may find the list online by clicking “National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month Event Calendar” at http://health.state.tn.us/MCH/index.html.
The Department of Health has a variety of services available to protect and promote the health of adolescents and to prevent teen pregnancy. To learn more about services available in your area, contact your local health department. A list of local health departments is available online at http://health.state.tn.us/localdepartments.htm.
The Tennessee District Attorneys General Conference is also sponsoring the “What’s the Rush?” campaign to educate Tennessee’s youth about the legal, financial and social consequences of becoming teen parents. Learn more about this effort by visiting www.tndagc.org/whatstherush/index.html.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy is a nonprofit, nonpartisan initiative designed to promote values, behavior and policies that reduce both teen pregnancy and unplanned pregnancy among young adults. To learn more about the organization and the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, visit www.thenationalcampaign.org/national/.