Although a variety of measures are helping reduce the rates of teen pregnancy in McDuffie County, the issue remains important to the McDuffie County Partners for Success organization, said Executive Director Mary Ann Kotras.
"Right now, our biggest issue is teen pregnancy because it just impacts on so many other areas," Dr. Kotras said following the annual McDuffie County Partners for Success collaborative luncheon Oct. 14.
At the luncheon, keynote speaker Cliff Baskerville discussed the abstinence-based program Choosing the Best, which has been implemented in some after school programs and will begin at the high school in January.
Mr. Baskerville, regional state director of Choosing the Best, believes the program gives teens resources and training to form healthy relationships which lead to a decrease in teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.
Speaking to a group of 80 visitors, he discussed the problems of teen pregnancy and addressed some of the solutions.
"We know that 60 percent of our teenagers, by the time they're 18 years old, have had sex," he noted.
Of those, 25 percent will have some type of sexually transmitted disease, and upwards of one in five will have become pregnant, he said.
Teenagers are influenced by a variety of pressures including hormones, peer pressure, the media, alcohol and drugs, and the desire to be in a relationship.
There are physical and emotional consequences, Mr. Baskerville said.
"Up to 900,000 girls become pregnant each year, and four million teens come down with STD's (across America)," he said.
Some emotional consequences include worry, guilt and depression.
"Teenage girls are six times more likely to commit suicide after they become sexually active; teenage boys are five times more likely to start using drugs," he said.
Studies have shown Choosing the Best to be effective in addressing these issues.
The program, which began in 1993, has been completed by more than one million students in 2,500 schools across 50 states.
The program is known for being "teacher friendly" and easy to use. It includes a variety of teaching methods including videos, real life case studies, role playing, exercises and small group discussions.
Choosing the Best is just one program in place through the McDuffie County Partners for Success organization, which brought in over $300,000 in grant funds for this year.
At last year's collaborative luncheon, there was a panel discussion about problems with teen pregnancy.
"This year, I wanted to talk about some solutions," Dr. Kotras said.
"Students need to get this information on abstinence and why abstinence is the best choice. We are advocating making the right decisions and resisting peer pressure," she said.