Women who are 18 and 19 years old in the county gave birth to half as many babies in 2009 as they did in 2008, according to a new report from the county Public Health Department.
But younger teenage girls saw a slight rise in their rate of giving birth, according to the report, called Community Health Status Report 2010.
The number of births to young women 18 and 19 dropped from 46.9 per 1,000 adolescent residents in 2008 to 22.8 in 2009, according to the report.
Girls 15 through 17 registered 8.6 births per 1,000 in 2008 and 9.5 in 2009. However, that more recent number is still down from 2007, when it was 13.5.
The numbers place San Luis Obispo County well below the California average in teen births, which was 53.5 for 18- and 19-year-olds and 17.5 for girls 15 to 17.
“Both groups have consistently lower rates than California overall, which is good news for all concerned,” according to a news release from Health Director Jeff Hamm and Health Officer Penny Borenstein.
“Teenage mothers are less likely to graduate from high school (and) have fewer employment opportunities, while their children are at risk for poorer health and developmental disabilities,” Hamm and Borenstein reported.
They also are “more likely to live in poverty than their nonpregnant counterparts,” less likely to get or stay married, and more likely to go on welfare, according to the report.
Their children, the report goes on, are more likely to die soon after birth, have low birth weight, and fall victim to sudden infant death syndrome. Later in their young lives, “they may be at greater risk of child abuse, neglect, and behavioral problems and educational problems.”
The information on teen births was just one category covered in the 83-page report. The annual document is a cornucopia of factoids about the county’s health and its implications.
It covers topics such as communicable diseases to obesity, cites sources, and suggests websites for those who want to learn more.
The authors say they intend their research to be used by health care providers, policymakers, educators and community members.
Among other findings:
Obesity continues to be an issue, with 21.1 percent of teens between 12 and 17 years old deemed at risk of being overweight. The number for the state is 16.7 percent.
The percentage of people overweight in the county rose from 31.6 percent in 2007 to 42.1 percent in 2009.
The county has a smaller percentage of its population younger than 15 and a larger percentage older than 45, “which has important implications for disease patterns and demand for health services.”
The high school graduation rate is higher than California’s as a whole, but still is in a six-year decline.
The most frequently reported communicable diseases are hepatitis C and chlamydia.
There were 382 reports of pertussis in 2010, up from 2 in 2009.
Cancer was the leading cause of death in San Luis Obispo County in 2009, followed by heart disease and stroke.
San Luis Obispo County has a higher percentage than California as a whole of people with arthritis and asthma, but a lower percentage of people with diabetes.