Academy focuses on high teen pregnancy rate

Local health officials are taking another step toward reducing the high rate of teen pregnancy in Clayton County with a Youth Services Provider Academy.

The academy will be held Aug. 29, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Aug. 30, 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Southlake Mall Morrow Center. The forum is free and open to all youth-serving agencies in the county. Space is limited so participants will be registered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Clayton County Board of Health Spokesman Joel Hall said the academy will feature a series of workshops and interactive forums covering topics such as Understanding the Challenges Facing our Youth, Developing Asset-Based Programs, Health and Sexuality, Recruitment and Marketing, Sustainability and Retention Planning, and Evaluating Youth Services: Proven Outcomes Mean Greater Opportunities.

Hall said officials hope the academy will also serve as an opportunity to share expectations with potential organizations who will be partnering with the Board of Health to implement a teen pregnancy prevention program starting in September.

The local health department is receiving a federal grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Clayton health officials will get $4.2 million over the next five years to implement Clayton Can Soar to the Top, an initiative to combat high teen pregnancy rates.

According to the county's first comprehensive health report in 70 years, Clayton teen pregnancies for ages 15, to 19 accounted for 63.8 per 1,000 live births in 2007, the most recent figures available. The rate was 58.4 per 1,000 live births in 2003.

During the report years 2003-2007, the birth rate for Hispanics was more than three times that of blacks or whites. Of each 1,000 live births in Clayton, 186.2 were Hispanic compared to 54.2 for whites and 51.7 for blacks, according to the report.

The State of Health Report also revealed that Clayton has one of the state's highest rates of infant mortality, with 413 babies dying before their first birthdays between 1995-2007.

The goal is to reduce those numbers, said officials. Clayton County District Health Director Dr. Alpha Fowler Bryan said the grant will go a long way toward guiding girls away from becoming another statistic.

“This grant will allow the Clayton County Board of Health the great and invaluable opportunity to empower hundreds of Clayton County youth to make smarter life choices by giving young people the tools and information to make better decisions about their lives,” she said.

The teen outreach and pregnancy prevention program is based on the Wyman Teen Outreach Program that started in 1978 in the St. Louis public school system as a way to decrease pregnancy and increase scholastic success among teens.

The Clayton County program will reach about 400 girls but will focus on black teens ages 12-19. The curriculum is structured to work with the teens in small groups, with the goal being to improve their self-esteem, assertiveness, communication abilities and decision-making skills.

Two TOP locations have already been announced, at Hearts to Nourish Hope at 345 Scott Road in Riverdale and Ladies of Favor Inc., at 1299 Battle Creek Road in Jonesboro. Other TOP Clubs are expected to be organized at Prevention PLUS/Forest Park Street School in Forest Park; the Rhodenizer, Huie and Gray recreation centers; Clayton Juvenile Court and the Kinship Care Resource Center in Jonesboro.

For more information on the academy or to RSVP, contact Teriwanda Hayes at (678) 479-2220, or teriwanda.hayes@dhr.state.ga.us.