A new program was launched Wednesday to reduce high teen pregnancy rates in Erie County. HOPE Buffalo is in collaboration with United Way and the Erie County Health Department.
More than 40-community and health care organizations will work to reduce the rates in the city of Buffalo by 30-percent by the year 2020.
Teen pregnancy rates in the nation are at a record low, but in Buffalo the rates are alarming high.
United Way Health Initiatives program director Mary K Comtois said teen pregnancy rates in the state have dropped to a little more than 33.2 for women 15 to 19-years of age, Buffalo’s remain very high.
“However, our rate in the city of Buffalo is 67.5 and in targeted zip codes of HOPE Buffalo it's 73.3,” Comtois “We have areas of concentrated need.”
HOPE stands for Health, Opportunity, Prevention and Education
Erie County Health Commissioner Dr. Gale Burstein said HOPE Buffalo is a commitment to youth in the Buffalo community.
“We are focused on protective factors. You know all teens are not getting pregnant or getting their partners pregnant and we are building on positive factors in the community instead of emphasizing risk factors and negative behaviors,” Burstein explained.
Dr. Burstein noted that HOPE Buffalo is a youth and adult partnership to “ensure youth have evidence based health education and access to youth affirming healthcare to make informed decisions about their health.”
The prevention program will be brought into city schools and will concentrate on specific city zip codes in Erie County.
HOPE Buffalo project director Stan Martin said the teen pregnancy rates are the highest in certain city zip codes, 14201, 14204, 14206, 14207, 14208, 14209, 14211, 14213 and 14215.
“In terms of addressing adolescent health and wellness, we look at poverty as the root cause of some of these health issues and health disparities,” Martin remarked.
HOPE Buffalo will provide a 'teen-focused' referral guide to reproductive health, primary care and support services.
Martin noted they’ve already implemented a program in city schools called “Raising Health Children’. It provides teachers with professional development training to improve classroom management, social and emotional needs for students. Parents also participate and are provided with skills to have informed conversation about teens being sexually active and offers information on reproductive services.
Martin said it will “take a village” to change the rate.
“It’s a trifecta – you need to work with the youth, you need to work with the teachers as well and also the parents. Then also you have the extension of the community,” Martin explained.
Martin said having knowledge and education is “critical.”