Teens have one in eight births in West Virginia

WHEELING – One in eight babies born in West Virginia is born to a teenage mother, new information from West Virginia Kids Count indicates.

The 2012 Kids Count Data Book, released this week, focuses on what the organization has found to be an upward trend in the state’s teen birth rate. It also outlines solutions to reduce the incidence of teen pregnancy, including full implementation of the state’s sex education curriculum.

In 2010, Kids Count reports that West Virginia’s teen birth rate stood at 45 per 1,000 teen girls, while the national rate was 34 per 1,000 teen girls. The state ranked 40th nationally in teen birth rates.

In the Northern Panhandle, counties recorded the following birth rate per 1,000 teen girls, according to Kids Count: Brooke, 25.8; Hancock, 33.2; Ohio, 36; Marshall, 43.1; Tyler, 52.5; and Wetzel, 55.4.

Monongalia County had the lowest birth rate per thousand teen girls at 14. On the opposite end, McDowell County had the highest rate per 1,000 at 95.8 births.

“One in seven teen girls in West Virginia will have a baby,” said Margie Hale, executive director of Kids Count. “This is alarming, because we know when teens get pregnant, they are much more likely to drop out of school, live in poverty and have babies that are less healthy. It’s up to all of us to work together to reverse the recent trend.”

One way to do that, Hale said, is to give young people a realistic vision of a positive future. Parents also need to succeed as sex educators, and communities need to implement action plans for teen pregnancy prevention.