Spalding County is one of five counties that the Morehouse School of Medicine will be working with on a teen pregnancy prevention program.
The grant from the Morehouse School of Medicine Health Promotion Resource Center is entitled “Replicating Evidence-Based Teen Pregnancy Prevention Programs to Scale in Communities with the Greatest Need.” The award, for five years, totals $6,249,995, and will focus on five counties — Crisp, Douglas, Jasper, Thomas and Spalding.
“Teen pregnancy is at a high in these counties,” said Alice Jackson from Morehouse School of Medicine. “Yes, it has gone down, but it has climbed back up, gone down and is climbing again.”
Jackson said Spalding County was chosen, as it was part of previous grant five years ago to reduce teen pregnancy, which just ended in June. That program had 60 students from Spalding County, who were transported to Barnesville for classes. “They started in sixth grade and are now in 10th grade, and we did not have a single pregnancy,” she said.
This time, Jackson said, “we want it to be a scale model, to reach a larger number of students, so they can make great decisions when it comes to sexual activity. We partnered with Eighth Street Baptist Church’s Service Center and this group,” she told the members of the Educational Prosperity Initiative, at that group’s meeting Thursday morning,
Eighth Street Pastor Antoine Lucas said his church solicited and received the grant in an effort to reduce and to mitigate teen pregnancy.
“It’s about our children — we need to make it happen,” Lucas said.
According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health, which awarded the grant to Morehouse, “teen birth rates in the United States have declined almost continuously since the early 1990s — including a 10 percent drop from 2012 to 2013 — further decreasing from 2012’s historic lows. Between 1991 and 2013, the teen birth rate decreased by more than half in the United States (from 61.8 to 26.5 per 1,000 teens).”
Georgia’s teenage birth rate dropped 60 percent from 1991 to 2013 for females ages 15 to 19, according to the Office of Adolescent Health, Georgia’s teen pregnancy rate in 2010 was 64 per 1,000, whereas the national rate was 57 per 1,000.
According to the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Power and Potential, in 2010, Spalding County ranked 141st of 159 counties for teen pregnancy, with a teen pregnancy rate of 89.4 per 1,000, compared to the state rate of 37.9 per 1,000 and the national rate of 34.2 per 1,000.
Lucas and Jackson were soliciting help from the school system to reach the target group — middle and high school students. Jackson said in Thomas County, the program has been implemented in the schools as part of the health curriculum and in Jasper County it was part of the Connections program in the schools.
Sharlene Patterson, assistant superintendent with the Griffin-Spalding County Schools asked if the program had been vetted by the Department of Education. Jackson said it had been vetted and proven at the federal and state levels.
Patterson asked if there were opt-outs for parents and was concerned about the logistics of doing it as an after-school program, since the middle and high schools don’t currently have after-school programs.
Jackson said transportation was not included in the grant for Spalding County. She said she talked with former superintendent Curtis Jones about the grant, but as he was leaving, he asked her to take it up with the next superintendent.
Jackson said Eighth Street, through the grant is hiring two facilitators and a program coordinator for the program, “to make sure the program is implemented with fidelity.”
She said she hoped to work with the school system, but said, “the life of the program does not rely on the school system.”
Jackson said they are reaching out to community organizations that work with teens and would look at reaching out to “adjoining counties that have high-risk factors. Whatever way, we’d love to work with the school system.”
At Thursday’s meeting were many of the school system’s principals, as well as the Archway Partnership professional. Three of the programs and curriculum were mentioned at Thursday’s meeting by Jackson included “Making A Difference!” an abstinence-only approach “to help them to abstain from sexual contract at this time,” she said. The other two were “Be Proud! Be Responsible!” and “Be Proud! Be Responsible! Be Protective!”
The Morehouse School of Medicine Health Promotion Resource Center website describes each of the programs as follows:
• “Making A Difference! An Abstinence Approach to Prevention of STDs, HIV and Teen Pregnancy” is an eight-module curriculum that provides young adolescents with the knowledge, confidence, and skills necessary to reduce their risk of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), HIV, and pregnancy by abstaining from sex. The curriculum is designed for middle school youth and is delivered by trained facilitators.
• “Be Proud! Be Responsible!” is a five-hour intervention (delivered in six 50-minute modules), designed to modify behaviors and build knowledge, understanding, and a sense of responsibility regarding STD/HIV risk in vulnerable youth. The intervention aims to affect knowledge, beliefs, and intentions related to condom use and sexual behaviors such as initiation and frequency of intercourse.
• “Be Proud! Be Responsible! Be Protective!” aims to reduce unprotected sex among sexually active, pregnant and parenting teens by affecting knowledge, beliefs, and intentions related to condom use and sexual behaviors. It also addresses the impact of HIV/AIDS on pregnant women and their children, the prevention of disease during pregnancy and the postpartum period, and special concerns of young mothers. The program consists of eight 60-minute modules focusing on behavioral attitudes, expectations, negotiation and problem solving skills, self-efficacy, and feelings of maternal protectiveness.
By Ray Lightner
Griffin Daily News