Lowell Sun (Mass.) (04.04.13)
On April 3, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Task Force, part of Massachusetts’s Greater Lowell Health Alliance, shared survey results with the Board of Health. The results indicated that 88.7 percent of surveyed parents believe teen pregnancy is a problem in Lowell, and almost 80 percent of the responding parents thought it would be good if teens had access to birth control without a parent's permission. Lowell has the eighth highest teen birth rate in Massachusetts, at 44.7 births per 1,000 women ages 15 to 19, even though in 2010, local and statewide teen birth rates reached their lowest level in decades. The latest number is considerably lower than the 63.4 births in 2000, but is much higher than the 2010 Massachusetts rate of 17.1 births per 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 19, according to a recently released report by the Department of Public Health.
Besides sharing survey results, task force members also updated the Board of Health on its work, which is focused on decreasing teen pregnancy and STDs. Task Force Chair Stephanie Buchholz of the Lowell Community Health Center, Amy Handl, a nurse and health teacher from the Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School, and Andrea Lasky, a Lowell Community Health Center nurse, all spoke to the board about reaching out to parents to learn more about teenagers’ risky behaviors. The task force presented results from a recent student survey revealing that 29.8 percent of Lowell ninth graders and 17.3 percent of middle school students reported having taken part in sexual intercourse. The task force stated that Lowell also has a high rate of STDs among teens, and that more than 40 percent of high school and middle school students who are sexually active said they did not use birth control or condoms. Even though the parents have indicated an openness to teens having birth control access without parental permission, condoms are not available to students at Lowell High School.