US teen birthrate nine times higher than Netherlands: study

January 11th, 2009 - 2:55 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 11 (IANS) The teen birthrate in the US is nearly nine times higher than that of the Netherlands, and four times that of France and Germany, according to a study. Similarly, the US teen abortion rate is twice that of Germany and the Netherlands. America’s teen gonorrhoea rate is 28 times greater than that in the Netherlands.

These startling statistics were in an analytical report released by Advocates for Youth, a Washington-based non-profit organisation, focusing on adolescent sexual and reproductive health.

Advocates for Youth study estimates that had the US teen birthrate been equivalent to that of the Netherlands, such pregnancies would be reduced by 617,000 and the initial year tax savings would amount to $542 million.

The report identified US failure to invest in comprehensive, age-appropriate sex education as being a key reason why it lags behind other developed countries in teen sexual and reproductive health.

Over the past decade, the US government has spent over $1.3 billion on abstinence-only-until-marriage programmes which prohibit information about condoms and birth control. In April 2007, a government-financed evaluation determined that abstinence-only programmes simply do not work.

While the US government and Congress have been slow to change and invest in programmes that do work, local communities are now starting to take the lead.

On Jan 5, Frank Jackson, mayor of Cleveland held a press conference releasing an interim evaluation of the programme, which showed strong and encouraging results, said an Advocates release.

– Students in first through third grades reported they learned about good touch/bad touch, what to do if someone tries to touch them inappropriately, and about respecting others;

– Students indicated they are more likely to behave responsibly, such as stating they would not allow themselves to be coerced into sex;

– High school students had significantly better attitudes regarding protecting themselves and their partners if and when they choose to engage in sexual activity; and

– Parents and teachers overwhelmingly believe these lessons are important for their children and students.

Though the Cleveland programme started in 2006, it was too early to evaluate behavioural as opposed to attitudinal outcomes.

“Numerous studies have established that students who receive age-appropriate, medically accurate education about their bodies and how to protect themselves from disease and pregnancy are able to make healthy decisions,” said Marcia Egbert, chair of the Cleveland Collaborative for Comprehensive School-Age Health.

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