South Carolinians Collaborate to Keep State's Teen Birth Rate Down

In South Carolina, the teen birth rate has hit an all-time low, dropping by more than a quarter in the past 10 years. State officials and teen pregnancy prevention advocates credit the decline to South Carolina’s strong focus on collaboration, led by the nonprofit South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.

“They’re kind of the hub,” says Martha Hinson, who coordinates statewide adolescent health initiatives for South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control and oversees the state’s Personal Responsibility Education Program, a teen pregnancy prevention effort funded by the Family and Youth Services Bureau. “They’re so inclusive in pulling everyone in that might have an interest in working with teen pregnancy prevention.”

The campaign has brought together youth-serving organizations, state leaders and academic institutions, including the University of South Carolina, says Lucy Gibson, who directs the Division of Women and Children’s Services in the Department of Health and Environmental Control. Together, the partners are finding ways to avoid duplicating services and to measure their collective impact. They are also creating a statewide teen pregnancy prevention plan that outlines what each agency or organization can do.

Bringing together so many people and organizations in the fight against teen pregnancy has allowed South Carolina to consolidate its efforts and ensure that resources are used effectively, says Hinson. For example, the state has decided to target South Carolina’s 18- and 19-year-old women, who experience high rates of unintended pregnancy. In Charleston, a partnership between the local health department, the College of Charleston and other local agencies aims to influence high school and college women. The South Carolina Campaign also collaborated with Blue Cross Blue Shield on a study that helped come up with marketing strategies for reaching older teen women in South Carolina technical schools and high schools.

Despite its successes, the state isn’t resting on its laurels. Gibson and Hinson say that while the declining birth rates should be celebrated, it’s important that people support those working to keep the rates down.

“Teen pregnancy is a complex issue, so in order to combat the problems we need to develop complex solutions,” says Forrest Alton, CEO of the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. His organization and its partners are continuing to push for the use of pregnancy prevention strategies that have been researched and shown to work. They are also “pursuing aggressive communication strategies to make sure that teen pregnancy as an issue is staying on the radar screen of the general public,” Alton says.

All in all, Gibson says, “We’re emphasizing that there’s still a lot of work to do.”

FYSB’s State Personal Responsibility Education Program supports statewide efforts to educate youth about healthy sexual behavior and prepare them for adulthood. Read about FYSB’s Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program.