LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Despite a 16 percent decrease since 2007, Arkansas still leads the country in the number of babies born to teenage mothers, according to a new report.
A National Center for Health Statistics report found that teens in Arkansas gave birth at a rate of 51 per 1,000 females of their age group in 2011. That was the highest rate in the country, with a national average of 31.3 births per 1,000 in the group.
But Arkansas’ rate has plummeted since 2007, when the rate was 60 births per 1,000 teen females.
"Teen birth rates fell steeply in the United States from 2007 to 2011, resuming a decline that began in 1991 but was briefly interrupted in 2006 and 2007," said the report from the National Center for Health Statistics, which is an arm of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The other states with high teen birth rates are Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. Those states also reported double-digit decreases since 2007 in teen births.
Bradley Planey of the Arkansas Department of Health said the state has several grants currently in place that allow it to tackle the problem of teen pregnancy. The grants include $590,000 for an abstinence-only program that’s offered in Arkansas, Benton, Carroll, Chicot, Conway, Crawford, Faulkner, Johnson, Prairie, Pulaski, Saline and Washington counties.
A separate $480,000 grant pays for comprehensive sex education that covers contraception and abstinence. That program, known as the Personal Responsibility Education Program, targets high-risk children in Pulaski, Garland, Jefferson, Lonoke and Saline counties.
"The things that are important are for parents to talk with their kids about sex education, as well as what they’re going through," Planey said. "That kind of communication has proved to be the most influential in a teen’s life — even if they pretend they’re not listening."