Belinda Prichard public health nurse and health educator for the Knox County Health Department stood in front of the Knox County Health Coalition and loudly expressed, “I am so happy! We are NOT number one anymore!
In 2008, Kentucky held the top spot in the United States for teenage pregnancies. Prichard said, “During ’08 and ’09 our county had one of the worst rates in the State if not the absolute worst. That is why we used to say we are number 1 in the nation. Our (Knox county) number was 92.8 which means that for every 1,000 births in the county almost 93 % of them would have been teenage girls ages 15-19.” Prichard laughed, “Now we did not have 1,000 birth, but the mathematics make it come out that way.” Fast forward to 2013, the National rate is 26.6 and Kentucky is now 38.7. Knox county has dropped to 64.5 which is over a 28% decrease.
Prichard went on, “This is a great accomplishment, but we are by no means finished. This reduction didn’t happen by accident. We have been working hard and education has been the key. Two programs that really helped were Choosing the Best and TOP (a Teen Outreach Program that was used at Lynn Camp)”.
Choosing the Best is a program that is presented through the 6th, 7th and 8th grades. It is a series of classes that deal with the consequences and results that arrive from decisions that are made. Prichard said the program teaches, “A decision could result in a good outcome and a not so good one.” The teenagers then study what their lives would be in good or “not so good” situations. All of them are shown the life of a teen mother.”
TOPS was headed up by Tammy Sutton when she was the nurse at Lynn Camp. Sutton is now part of the HANDS (Health Access Nutritional Pre-natal Care and Safety) with the Knox County Health Department. Sutton said of the program, “TOPS is a mentoring program sort of like Big Brother/Big Sister. We taught the young adults to set goals such as graduating high school. They are also required to perform 20 hours of community services such as: playground pickup (litter), nursing home visits and organized blood drives. We even made small teacher appreciation gifts. The young ladies bonded together through all of these activities. These bonds gave the ladies a support group which remained intact as they entered high school.” Sutton said, “I believe the bonds these girls created, helped them, help each other to stay out of trouble.”
As the Health Coalition meeting was breaking up, Prichard pulled out the map of Kentucky . Each county had a percentage marked on it to show the number of teen pregnancies that had occurred in that county. As she was showing it to members, she stated, “I am so very proud of this. We all need to continue doing what we have been doing. It is so obvious that it is working.”