PUEBLO COUNTY, Colo. - The Pueblo County Health Department cites the effect of a new program for the county's first major decrease in teen pregnancies since 1994.
The teen pregnancy rate dropped 34 percent last year, according to the health department.
Health experts gathered at the department Friday to reflect on the decrease. They say it's because of a new program designed to intensify outreach to teens and college-age women in town.
The program, based partly on research projects in Denver and St. Louis, educates those women on what the latest information is about birth control, and what the best available resources are.
"We're pleased to see such dramatic results happening so quickly," said Karen Middleton of NARAL Pro-Choice Colorado. "We actually went door-to-door. We learned that if you brought birth control information to young women and assigned them to a health educator -- what we call a navigator -- they were able to figure out how to better access birth control."
County Commissioner Buffie McFadyen expressed her support of the program.
"If we want to fight poverty here in Pueblo County, we need this," she said. "The biggest factor besides abstinence is quality education about safe birth control."
Stacy Herrera, a registered nurse with the health department, said feedback received by the department showed that teens sought more medically-accurate information and care regarding birth control, and wanted for that to be confidential."
"We've distributed 1,500 pieces of literature so far," she said.
Dr. Chris Nevin-Woods, the county's public health director, said she's pleased with the program's results.
'We're focusing on how to get reproductive health care to low-income women and teenagers," she said. "The research proves that federally funded clinics like ours that provide young women with implants and long-acting reversible contraception have the biggest decreases in teen pregnancies."
However, Nevin-Woods said the rate of pregnancies among low-income and college women aged 19-24 decreased only by a small amount.
"We're not quite sure why," she said. "It could be that at that age, women are still making decisions about whether they want to be pregnant, and many of them do."
The health experts said while abstinence remains the most effective birth control method, women who choose to be sexually active should be responsible and have access to the best available information and resources.