Battling Teen Pregnancy in Georgia
FARAI CHIDEYA, host:
And turning to Georgia 12 years ago, that state had the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the country. African Americans accounted for a lot of it.
That's when Michelle Ozumba joined the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention. And she's their CEO and president today. Michelle, welcome.
Ms. MICHELLE OZUMBA (President and Chief Executive Officer, Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention): Thank you very much.
CHIDEYA: So when you started this in Georgia, how bad was the teen pregnancy rate?
Ms. OZUMBA: Well, we were at a rate of about 107 per 1,000 girls ages 15 to 19, having - becoming pregnant here in Georgia.
CHIDEYA: How did you go about trying to change that, bring the rate down?
Ms. OZUMBA: Well, the state, like other states at the same time, as Stephanie was saying earlier, in 1996, when welfare reform happened, there was, for the first time, a provision that linked public dependency, long-term public dependency to teen pregnancy. And it was researched at the time that said 50 percent of women on public assistance had, at one time, been teenage mothers.
So there was an opportunity for states to have funding that allowed us to mobilize and do programs that could reach large enough populations to begin to affect the race and to begin to have a statistic trend going in the right direction for the first time in a very long time.
CHIDEYA: So let's tick through a few of the different things that people have suggested will help decrease pregnancy. Tell me what you think of them empowering young women, teaching them to just say no.
Ms. OZUMBA: Well, I think just saying no sounds very good but, really, it's a very complex issue. So I think empowerment certainly is one of the things that we seek to do but it's not about just saying no. It's really empowering young people to have a sense of a future that they are motivated to avoid anything that will distract them from achieving their goals.
And we believe that a goal for a successful - getting to successful adulthood is having an aspiration - that that's going to keep you focused.
CHIDEYA: What about in light of what you were just saying, anti-poverty? Will lowering the poverty rate overall help give people a different perspective on their life opportunity.
Ms. OZUMBA: Certainly, poverty is - poverty reduction is a goal and there is such a link between poverty and teenage pregnancy. Sixty percent of teenage girls who give birth are, in fact, living in poverty. And there's a recent data from the national campaign that really further suggests how interlinked poverty is to young people becoming pregnant and becoming parents too soon. So anything we can do to address poverty is really going have a positive consequence on our issue of pregnancy prevention.
CHIDEYA: Quick hit. What about contraception? Important?
Ms. OZUMBA: Very important. A large reason for the decline has been increased defective use of contraceptives by young girls as well as young men. So that's definitely a contributing factor to the positive trend we're seeing.
CHIDEYA: All right. Thank you, Michelle. And Michelle Ozumba is CEO and president of the Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention. She spoke with us from Georgia Public Radio in Atlanta.
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