Despite statewide numbers decreasing, Del Norte County continues have the highest teen pregnancy rate in California, according to the latest reported numbers.
In 2015, the state’s adolescent birth rate dropped to 17.6 births per 1,000 females aged 15-19, the California Department of Public Health announced Tuesday. It is a 10 percent decline from the 2014 rate of 19.6 births and a 62 percent decline from the 2000 rate of 46.7, according to CDPH.
With 43.1 births per 1,000 females aged 15-19, Del Norte County’s adolescent birth rate is the highest in the state. According to a statement from CDPH, this is “trending downward” from 45.4 in 2013. However, according to CDPH’s Adolescent Birth Rate by county, Del Norte’s rate rose from 39.9 in 2014 to 43.8 2015.
The county with the lowest adolescent birth rate, at 6.7, is Marin, according to CDPH.
But information collected by the Del Norte County Department of Health and Human Services might put the data from the state into perspective, said Melody Cannon-Cutts, program manager for the department’s Public Health Branch.
Given Del Norte County’s sparse population and the time frame the state’s data covers, there are only 819 women in the county that meet the CDPH criteria of females between the ages of 15-19, Cannon-Cutts said. Of those 819 women, 35 had a pregnancy.
“What’s even more important, though, is that over 73 percent of the birth rate of those people are women ages 18 and 19,” Cannon-Cutts said, adding an average of 300 births occur in Del Norte County each year. “On top of that even, over 18 percent of those women that are 18 and 19, it’s a subsequent pregnancy. It’s not more people per say, there might be a subsequent pregnancy.”
Del Norte’s adolescent birth rate has consistently been among the highest in the state. In 2000, Del Norte’s adolescent birth rate was 61.5 per 1,000 teens. In 2007, the rate was 41.6 births. It dropped slightly to 39 births in 2008 and then shot up to 52.9 in 2009, the Triplicate reported in May 2012. In 2010, Del Norte’s adolescent birth rate per 1,000 teens rose to 64.4 births.
As a result of the 2010 birth rate, Del Norte County Unified School District was awarded a federal Personal Responsibility Education Program grant of $50,000. The program’s purpose is to educate teens at high risk of pregnancy on abstinence and contraception using proven methods that change teen’s behavior.
According to Steve Godla, assistant superintendent of instruction and educational services, Beth Chatton, the environmental literacy and after-school program coordinator for the Humboldt County Office of Education, conducted workshops for about three years at Sunset High School and at Crescent Elk Middle School. That grant has since expired, Godla said.
“We did almost all the work that first year,” he said.
DHHS Director Heather Snow noted even though Del Norte’s adolescent birth rate has been high, it has fluctuated. She noted with the county’s population being so sparse, one child born to a teenage parent would increase the teen pregnancy percentage. Snow also pointed out the correlation between high teen pregnancy ratings and poverty.
“The documentation even says the area in Del Norte is an area of concentrated poverty and unfortunately that isn’t likely to change,” she said. “But we can do our best to provide education and services to individuals that might be more likely to become a statistic.”
Among the county programs that work with young people is its peer-to-peer mentoring program. According to Cannon-Cutts, the program teaches life skills, career prep and how to build healthy relationships to students as young as fifth grade.
There’s also its Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health program, which provides that population with access to public health nurses, she said.
Then there’s the Nurse Family Partnership Program, a home-visit program that works with first-time mothers and their babies up to age 2, Cannon-Cutts said.