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Health board announces teen pregnancy summit

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Board of Health is planning to observe Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month by calling on local teenagers and their parents, to attend a summit, and expo, focusing on teen-related issues this weekend, the health department has announced.

The teen summit will address a wide range of issues, ranging from gangs, to "sexting," but Board of Health officials are touting it as a kick-off event for a new, five-year "Clayton Can Soar to the Top" initiative, which is designed to reduce the number of teenage pregnancies in the county.

Georgia Division of Public Health data shows Clayton County teenage females, ages of 15, to 19, gave birth to 4,305 children, between 2003, and 2009, according to Board of Health spokesman Joel Hall. He added that 1-in-10 females in that age group reported a new pregnancy in 2008 alone.

"When you take the mental maturity of teenagers, and financial resources of teenagers, and combine that with the responsibility of raising a child, that creates a lot of problems," Hall said. "It puts a lot of stress on the parents, and it puts a lot of stress on resources offered by the community."

The Board of Health's teen summit and expo will be held Saturday, May 21, from 11 a.m., to 3 p.m., at the Morrow Center, at 1180 Southlake Circle, in Morrow. It will be a free-to-attend event, according to a flyer for the summit.

Jevon Gibson, the manager of the Board of Health's Teen Pregnancy Prevention program, said in a written statement that the agency is working to promote healthy youth development "by identifying local resources available" to youngsters in the county. In addition to gang and "sexting" workshops, teenagers will be able to hear from people who have already gone through teen pregnancies, and can speak about the aftermath.

"There will be a teen mom panel there as well to discuss the challenges of being a teen parent," Gibson said. "We rarely hear about the challenges of teen parenting from teen parents in our community. Peer engagement around the issue of teen pregnancy is a critical prevention tool that, in my opinion, is not leveraged enough."

The agency will later launch into the "Clayton Can Soar to the Top" initiative, which is being funded by a $4.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Adolescent Health. Hall said the initiative will consist of offering small group sessions at locations around the county, where teenagers will be able to discuss issues, ranging from sexual health, to decision-making.

The Board of Health will pilot the initiative at Hearts to Nourish Hope in Riverdale, and Ladies of Favor in Jonesboro, later this month, after the summit, according to Hall.

Hall added the Board of Health is partnering with Clayton County Public Schools, the Clayton County Parks and Recreation Department, Clayton County Juvenile Court, Hearts to Nourish Hope, Lady's of Favor, Kinship Care, the Forest Park Street School, and Hands on Atlanta, to offer the summit and the "Clayton Can Soar to the Top" initiative.

Call (678) 610-7528 for more information.