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Catherine M. Abate Headshot

May Is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month -- Let's Aim Low!

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Earlier this year, the city released its most recent figures on birth rates, and many were delighted to see the numbers for teens between 15 and 19 years of age at a new low: 23.6 births per 1,000 women age 15 to 19 years in 2012. This is down 8.5 percent. in just one year (and a whopping 32.4 percent in nine years). Yes, that is progress overall, but our work is not yet done.

At Community Healthcare Network, we are always on the lookout for ways to help more teens avoid getting pregnant. This is particularly important in certain pockets of the city like the Bronx. The pregnancy rate among teens in the Bronx is nearly 30 percent higher than the city average and 45 percent higher than the national rate.

Last month, Community Healthcare Network, as part of its commitment to helping the most at-risk and underserved communities in the city, began working with the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to bring Nexplanon to its two Bronx locations and ultimately the entire city. Nexplanon is a new generation, long-acting, highly effective birth control implant that prevents pregnancies for three years and can be used by most women of childbearing age. Teens can get it for free or at a reduced cost without parental consent at our Bronx clinics.

Nexplanon's biggest advantage is that it is easy -- teens do not have to remember to do anything for three years after implantation (though they still need protection from STDs).

As any parent knows, no two teens are alike. Medical providers must approach their teen patients with this mindset -- recognizing they have different needs and circumstances -- so that providers and teens work together to find the best option, be it Nexplanon or another form of birth control. We need to make sure teens know these types of services are available to them at a wide variety of health centers across the city.

Teens in the United States are more likely than teens in any other industrialized nation to give birth. A U.S. teen is 30 percent more likely to give birth than her counterpart in Russia, which is number two on the list. This is not a top position we can be proud of. But with continued efforts, there is every reason to believe that we will work our way to the bottom of the list.