Most Active Stories
- Oakland Sweeps Yankees 3-2 In 18 Innings
- Report Cards Assessing Vermont Legislature on Business Issues Released
- Dr. Elizabeth Greene, Western University – Roman Shoes
- Dr. Leah Lakdawala, Michigan State University – Prenatal Sexism
- Dr. Thomas Wartenberg, Mount Holyoke College – Philosophy of Children’s Books
Wed July 27, 2011
As Massachusetts teen birth rates decline, the Berkshires are poised to combat rising teen pregnancy trends
By Patrick Donges
Pittsfield, MA – A report by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health released this week titled "Massachusetts Births 2009" gives the latest data on births across the state, including updated teen pregnancy rates.
The state's teen birth rate did not change from 2008 to 2009, remaining at about 20 births per 1,000 women ages 15-19. The rate has seen an 11 percent drop since 2007, but of the communities with the highest teen birth rates in the state, four of the top ten are west of Worcester.
Holyoke ranked first on the list with 146 teen births in 2009, that's a pregnancy for almost 97 out of every 1,000 teens.
Springfield came in fourth with, 438 births, more than Holyoke but only 72 per 1,000 teens, and Pittsfield placed eighth with 70 births, about 55 per 1,000. North Adams just missed the top ten, coming in at eleventh with29 births, just over 51 per 1,000 teens.
On a longer timeline, while the state's overall teen pregnancy rate has decreased 30 percent since 1996, Pittsfield's teen pregnancy rate has increased over 40 percent and North Adams' rate has increased 28 percent in the same period.
Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Massachusetts Alliance on Teen Pregnancy, said communities need to focus on three things to bring teen pregnancy rates down; comprehensive sexual education, access to contraceptives
"And third is motivation "
Over the past year, the Berkshire United Way has been working with the alliance towards the development of an action plan to address teen pregnancy in the county.
Kris Hazzard, president and CEO of Berkshire United Way, said the county needs improvement in all three areas mentioned by Quinn.
"Comprehensive K-12 health education, access to healthcare and kids believing they have a future."
Hazzard said online surveys of about 900 county residents and response to a community meeting attended by over 100 residents indicates the county is ready for change.
Another staggering statistic cited in the state report is a large disparity in the race of teen parents. The state birth rate for Latino teens was 63 per 1,000 women, over five times that of white teens at 11.5 per 1,000.
Gwendolyn Hampton Van-Sant, executive director of Housatonic-based Multicultural BRIDGE, said that teen pregnancy in Berkshire County is a problem that transcends racial lines, recalling the recent reaction of the facilitator of a discussion during the organization's summer youth program when an 8-year-old white girl answered a question about her dream for the future like this.
"My mom said I have to wait until I'm 16 1/2 and then I can have my kid "
Hazzard said the Berkshire United Way's action plan to address teen pregnancy is slated to be finished in the coming months, and that more community meetings are likely to be scheduled for the early fall.