"Dance class or Lamaze class?"
This question is posed on a new set of billboards you might see around Coastal Georgia, aimed to encourage local teens to make more responsible choices.
It’s all part of a "Choose Responsibly" campaign for Bryan, Chatham, Effingham and Liberty Counties launched this month, National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.
Director of Family Services Tara Jennings said teen pregnancy rates for Bryan County girls ages 15-17 is about 16 per 1,000, compared to the state rate of 38 per 1,000.
"While data shows that Bryan County is below the state average for first teenage pregnancy, there are some concerns about repeat births among those young mothers between ages 15 and 19," Jennings said. "Through our positive youth development components, Bryan County Family Connection is working to reduce the number of teenage pregnancy – because even one is too many."
Teen mothers are less likely to complete high school or get married and more are likely to end up on welfare. And the effects are felt throughout the whole community – in 2004, teen childbearing cost taxpayers $820,000 in Bryan County, according to the Coastal Health District (CHD). However, Bryan County’s teen pregnancy rate has decreased by "an impressive 55 percent in the last decade," the CHD said.
The campaign was developed by the Savannah College of Art and Design’s student-run advertising agency for the Promoting Awareness of Teen Health and Sexuality (PATHS) Coalition in an effort to reduce teen pregnancy rates.
"Many teens just don’t consider the long-term consequences of the decisions they make today about sex and contraception," said Karen Terry, Youth Development Coordinator for the Coastal Health District and a PATHS Coalition member. "We’re hoping this campaign will help them make better, more responsible choices to protect their futures."
The billboards feature photographs of area teens holding up signs with phrases like "Real Date or Play Date?" and posters asking, "What will you change first? Diapers or majors?"
The PATHS Coalition asked regional teen groups to help develop the theme for the campaign. They have recently added everything to their site www.talkingwithteens.com, including fact sheets and an anonymous "Ask the Expert" section where teens can get educated answers about sex, pregnancy, contraception and STDs. Also, teens can take an online quiz to find out how responsible they really are when it comes to their choices.