Planned Parenthood’s distribution of education and contraception has helped reduce the number of babies having babies in the Santa Barbara area by almost 40 percent since the early ’90s.
The Tri-County Planned Parenthood celebrated Teenage Pregnancy Prevention Month on Wednesday by recognizing staff members from the Santa Barbara County clinic. According to research released by the Santa Barbara County Public Health Dept., there has been a 39-percent decrease from 1993-1999 in births by women who are between 13 and 17 years old in the Santa Barbara County.
“These are programs that we believe – and research shows – have led to the decline in teenage births,” said Christine Lyons, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood.
Cheryl Rollings, CEO and president of the SB Planned Parenthood, said the programs, which include increased education and contraceptive availability, have been implemented over the past 10 years based on demand.
“The education includes information about abstinence [and] sexuality in order to reach kids,” Rollings said. “Planned Parenthood is about decreasing the need for abortions by preventing accidental pregnancies … through access to contraceptives and sexuality education that promotes healthy and responsible sexual behavior.”
Lorena Guzman, Latino outreach program coordinator, runs a program at Santa Barbara schools that focuses on a series of human-sexuality peer-outreach training courses for teenagers. Guzman said the first program, Amigo a Amigo, is aimed at teaching junior-high and high-school students about issues such as reproductive anatomy, self-esteem and suicide. She also coordinates a program, Amigos Positivos, aimed specifically at high-school students.
“Amigos Positivos provides the same information, only this is aimed at kids that we may have missed when they were in junior high,” Guzman said.
These outreach programs are used to train teen advocates who can speak to peers about issues of sexuality, according to Dr. Scott McCann, vice president of education for Planned Parenthood.
“Our priority is high-risk kids,” McCann said. “We realized that peers are the most effective in reaching out to other teens.”
In addition to peer advocates, Planned Parenthood’s Breakthrough Theatre has been effective, said Mike Downey, artistic director of the program. Downey recruits UCSB and Santa Barbara City College students to participate in training on issues including safe sex, rape and pregnancy, and then write scripts for plays that are performed for various teen groups across Santa Barbara.
“It’s important that the dialogue comes from [the teenagers] and their life experiences,” he said. “This is not just about giving the information out kids can get that from pamphlets, but leading them to examine these real-life issues.”