A grant totaling more than $2 million will help the Community Action Partnership of San Luis Obispo County implement a five-year program meant to reduce pregnancy among teens — most notably from the Latino community.
There were 170 births to teens age 12 to 19 countywide in 2009, costing local taxpayers $3.1 million in health, welfare and related costs, according to the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department Vital Statistics.
Although this represents a 35 percent decrease since 1998, births to Latino teens have remained stable at almost 60 percent of teen births for the past five years.
“It’s really important to work with (teens) when they’re young to build self-esteem and let them know what choices are out there,” said Jan Campbell, director of adolescent health for San Luis Obispo County Public Health Services.
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“Sometimes, teens don’t look beyond what’s normal in their culture and family,” she added.
CAPSLO received one of only 75 grants nationwide among 1,000 applicants. The grant was distributed by the federal Division of Health and Human Services’ Office of Adolescent Health — a new office created by the Affordable Care Act, according to CAPSLO project supervisor Francine Levin.
CAPSLO will spend one year piloting and four years implementing the ¡Cuídate! program.
“¡Cuídate!” in Spanish means “Take care of yourself.” The comprehensive sexual education program aims to address attitudes; behavioral and normative beliefs; and self-efficacy regarding pregnancy, STI and HIV risk-reduction by talking about safe sex in ways that are culturally consistent with Latino values, said CAPSLO planning and development specialist Sally Rogow.
For example, Latinos have a strong sense of family values, so one might ask — “How might not having a baby help me be able to provide for my family in the future?” Levin said.
Religious and cultural beliefs associated with low condom use among Latinos will be specifically addressed.
Male and female test participants age 13 to 18, in a mostly Puerto-Rican test community in Philadelphia, Pa., revealed fewer incidents of sexual intercourse, fewer sexual partners and fewer days of unprotected intercourse as a result of the program.
CAPSLO is hiring four full-time, bilingual educators to meet with small groups of middle and high school students selected by school administrators to attend about seven education sessions each.
While the program is aimed at Latino youth, also participating will be non-Latino youth at risk for unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. Among reported chlamydia and gonorrhea cases in 2008, white teens led with 58 percent of cases, while Latinos comprised 36 percent of cases.
Measuring by ZIP code, the North County contains 44 percent of teen births; South County, 31 percent; city of San Luis Obispo, 11 percent; and North Coast, 14 percent.
Consequences of teen pregnancy include low birth weight, poverty, school dropout, single parenthood, incarceration, unemployment, underemployment, child abuse and neglect, and involvement in the child welfare system, Levin said.
CAPSLO is in the process of piloting the “¡Cuídate!” program locally, and will begin implementing it when school starts next fall.