Thursday, January 21, 1999

Sharp decline
in teen births

Hawaii ranks sixth nationally
with an18 percent reduction

By Helen Altonn


Hawaii has had one of the nation's biggest declines in teen births since 1990, a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows.

It ranked sixth among states with an 18 percent drop in births to women under 20, compared with a national rate of 12 percent.

But risky behavior and pregnancies in a growing teen population still pose serious problems, according to the Kids Count study, "When Teens Have Sex: Issues and Trends."

Among findings:

Bullet The pattern of sexual activity among high school students is different in Hawaii than most other states, with more female students (45 percent) experiencing sexual intercourse than males (36 percent).

Bullet Hawaii's rate of condom usage is low, but the rate of gonorrhea infection for teen girls here is less than one-half of the national rate.

In 1996, Hawaii's birth rate for 15 to 19-year-olds was 48 per 1,000, compared with a national rate of 54. In 1997, Hawaii's rate dropped to 44 per 1,000.

However, 82 percent of such births here were to unmarried women -- higher than the national average of 76 percent.

It was a second or third birth for 19 percent of island teens; the national rate for repeat births was 22 percent. For teens 15 to 17 years old, Hawaii's birth rate is 28 per 1,000.

It isn't known exactly why the teen pregnancy rate is falling, said Marcia Hartsock, project coordinator with the University of Hawaii Center on the Family.

She attributes the decline to state and community programs such as the Peer Education Program and the state Health Department's Laulima in Action, which focuses on adolescent wellness.

Community-supported efforts work better than targeted programs, she said. "I think we'll see other kinds of teen risk behaviors decline as we work on them as a whole," she said, noting some of the same things are involved in teen alcoholism, smoking and suicides.

Candice Calhoun, with the Laulima in Action program, said laulima means "many hands working together" and the program involves many different approaches and partners. It's based on "what we know works, what young people told us they want," she said. "We are trying to work collaboratively. . . . We know none of us can do this alone."

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
[Stylebook] [Feedback]

© 1999 Honolulu Star-Bulletin