At the Healthy Child Summit on June 28, the Natural Wonders Partnership Council celebrated ten years of addressing the various aspects of child health and the challenges faced by children in Arkansas every day. One such challenge is the high rate of teen pregnancy in our state. Andrea Kane of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and Angela Lasiter of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education and the Arkansas Campaign to Prevent Unplanned Pregnancy were asked to present the latest findings on teen pregnancy and recommendations for future work in educating young adults on planning if, when, and under what circumstances they choose to become parents.
After 21 years of determined effort, the National Campaign has not only reached, but surpassed, their goal of reducing unplanned pregnancies by one-third. Ambitiously, they immediately set a new three-part goal for 2026: reduce teen pregnancy rates by 50%, reduce unplanned pregnancy rates among women age 18-29 by 25%, and reduce racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in teen and unplanned pregnancy rates by 50%. While this objective may seem impossible to some, the evidence leans in favor of success. Not only is our nation seeing enormous progress, but we show an accelerated rate of change, including in Arkansas. However, the state we call home still averages the highest birth rate among teens.
The Arkansas Campaign, through collaboration with the Arkansas Department of Higher Education, the Arkansas Department of Health, and many other organizations, strives to reduce the rate of unplanned pregnancy in our state, particularly among 18-19-year-olds. We utilize a website and social media outlets to spread the word of prevention of unplanned pregnancies and STIs, including birth control methods, their effectiveness, and where to find them. As a reflection of the longstanding commitment to providing access to family planning services, local health centers in every county provide annual exams, contraceptives, pregnancy testing, breastcare, and HIV/STI testing and treatment. Access and information are only two parts of the equation, however. We also endeavor to empower our young to make these important life decisions. In other words, they must feel capable of taking the opportunities for preventative methods presented to them. We have recently set our sights on hosting events at the colleges and universities in our state, especially in high risk areas, aiming to bring education and awareness directly to the students. Our hope is that by starting the conversation, teens and young adults will feel comfortable with continuing the conversation with parents, peers, and local health practitioners.