Health services cut teenage pregnancies

HEALTH trusts in Comet country are celebrating following news they have slashed teenage pregnancy rates. A Teenage Pregnancy Strategy was launched by the prime minister in June 1999 with the aim of reducing the pregnancy rate of under-18s by 15 per cent b

HEALTH trusts in Comet country are celebrating following news they have slashed teenage pregnancy rates.

A Teenage Pregnancy Strategy was launched by the prime minister in June 1999 with the aim of reducing the pregnancy rate of under-18s by 15 per cent by 2004.

Figures released recently show that England as a whole has failed to meet this Government target, achieving a fall of just 11 per cent over the five-year period.

Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire have proved more successful.

Hertfordshire has not quite met the 15 per cent target but it has experienced a 14.5 per cent reduction in teenage pregnancies.

In 2004, 27 girls conceived per 1,000 of the female population aged 15 to 17.

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The most recent figures for Stevenage show that between 1998 and 2002 there was a drop in under-18 conception of 1.5 per cent.

The rate was relatively high compared with other areas in the county, with almost 53 girls becoming teenage mothers per 1000 females aged 15 to 17.

In Bedfordshire (excluding Luton), an even higher reduction has been achieved of 21.2 percent.

A rate of 32 girls under 18 conceived per 1,000 of the female population aged 15 to 17 in 2004.

A spokesman for the Teenage Pregnancy Campaign in Bedfordshire said: "Bedfordshire is doing very well.

"We had a target set by the Government of 15 per cent and we've achieved that and more.

"We're targeting specifically under 18s and both men and women.

"The rate is gradually coming down and we're working hard on educating young people."

Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire are both affluent, rural areas which may indicate why rates of teenage pregnancy are significantly lower than other parts of England.

Luton, which was omitted from Bedfordshire's figures, has seen an increase of 3.8 per cent in teenage pregnancy since 1998, with a conception rate of 44.7 per 1,000 of the female population aged 15 to 17, (compared to 32.3 for the rest of the county).

Young women living in areas with higher levels of social deprivation are much more likely to become teenage mothers.

It has also been shown that women whose mothers had no qualifications are about twice as likely to have a teen birth as those with more educated mothers, which leads to another aim of the Teenage Pregnancy Strategy.

To stop the cycle of teenage mothers within families, the strategy is working to increase participation of teenage parents in education, training or employment.

The risk of long-term social exclusion should then be reduced.

In the long term, primary care trusts hope to continue this reduction and halve the rate of teenage pregnancies by 2010.

If young people want confidential advice about sex, relationships or pregnancy, they can call Sexwise free on 0800 28 29 30 or go to www.dontcrossyourfingers.co.uk

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