A $17 million federal grant will fund Hennepin County efforts to prevent teen pregnancy.
Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat said the grant funds pregnancy prevention programs at a number of schools in Brooklyn Center and Richfield, among other communities. Opat said the program encourages both abstinence and family planning.
"First off, they know they have the option not to be sexually active and we reinforce that in the program," Opat said. "Then we also tell them that if they are going to be sexually active, they need to make some choices to avoid unwanted pregnancies."
Previous efforts by the county have led to slightly lower teen pregnancy rates, and more awareness of health issues by high school students, Opat said, adding that the program includes school day and after-school education.
"So that would technically be compulsory, I guess, like math is or science is," he said. "It's a unit in the health class, and then the other things are optional after-school [programs], but we recruit kids to be in it."
Opat said results from previous programs show a decline in teen pregnancy rates, with a corresponding increase in knowledge about health related issues.
Minnesota Department of Health statistics show teen pregnancy rates here and across the country dropped sharply for girls 15 to 17 from 1990 to 2000, but started rising slightly a few years ago. Health statistics show the United States continues to have the highest rate of teen pregnancy of any industrialized nation.
While Minnesota has low adolescent birth rates overall compared to other states, there are sharp racial and ethnic disparities. Health Department numbers show that in 2007, Minnesota's Hispanic/Latina and American Indian teen birth rates were six times higher than that of white adolescents.