Monday, June 29, 2015

Rural teen sex, birth rates higher than in metro areas, report finds; Iowa daily localizes report

Rural teenage girls are having sex at higher rates than their urban and suburban counterparts and are less likely to use birth control, leading to higher rates of rural teen pregnancies, says a report by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. The report, which used data from 2010, the most recent year it was available, found that for girls between the ages of 15-19, the teen birth rate among rural girls was one-third higher than it was for the rest of the country.

More than 45 out of every 1,000 rural girls ages 15-19 have a baby, compared to the national average of 34.2 per every 1,000 girls. While birth rates are declining nationally, the decline is slower in rural areas, where birth rates declined 31 percent from 1990 to 2010, compared to a 50 percent decline in metro areas. (National Campaign graphic)
Overall, 55 percent of rural girls ages 15-19 said they have had sex, compared to 40 percent from metro areas, and 41 percent of rural girls said they have had sex in the past three months, compared to 29 percent of metro girls. Of those girls, 71 percent of rural girls said they used birth control the first time, compared to 81 percent of metro girls, and 82 percent of rural girls who had sex in the past three months used birth control, compared to 86 percent of metro ones.

Researchers say the main reasons for higher rural teen birth rates are lower college enrollment, poverty, lack of access to health services and declining populations. Other factors are lack of health insurance, transportation barriers, fewer recreational facilities and higher rates of binge drinking.

The Gazette, in Eastern Iowa, localized the report by taking a look at state figures, finding the results held true in the state's rural counties. Iowa Department of Public Health statistics "showing teen birthrates by county between 2008 to 2012 found that 20 of Iowa’s 66 counties with populations of fewer than 20,000 had teen birthrates that ranked in the top third over all, and 39 of those counties had teen birthrates higher than the state average," Chelsea Keenan reports for The Gazette.

"Additionally, out of the 15 counties with the highest birthrates, seven had populations of fewer than 20,000," Keenan writes. "Clarke County—with a population of 9,325 in south-central Iowa—had the highest teen birthrate in the state—with a rate of 54.3 per 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19 years old."

Kristin Fairholm, executive director of Eyes Open Iowa, a Des Moines-based group that advocates for teen sexual education, told Keenan, “Teens in rural communities engage in risky behaviors at higher rates because, a lot of times, there aren’t things to do in small-town Iowa—they have more downtime." (Read more)

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