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As part of Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, Fulton County hosted a day of awareness events May 27 at the Neighborhood Union Health Center in Vine City. A news release announcing the effort said the following:
"Fulton County has successfully reduced the number of pregnancies among 15-19 year olds [sic] in the County. The number of teen pregnancies dropped from 2,608 in the year 2000 to 1,831 in 2006."
In the spirit of the awareness campaign, we at PolitiFact Georgia decided to fact-check Fulton County's news release.
Fulton County teen pregnancies are indeed down. Way down.
Between 2000 and 2006, the number of pregnancies among Fulton County females age 15 through 19 dropped just as the news release stated -- about 30 percent.
In fact, the figures Fulton County published downplay the decrease. Consider its pregnancy rate, a measurement that takes into account changes in population size. When you use this figure, the drop is even more dramatic. In 2000, the rate was 97.1. per 1,000 females in the specified age group. By 2006 it was 58.1 -- a decrease of about 40 percent.
But is this truly a "success," as the news release said?
"Success" suggests to us that the decrease is unique or greater than average. For instance, if Fulton teenage pregnancy dropped 30 percent while the state's rate dropped by 90 percent, Fulton's decrease would look more like failure than success.
"Success" also implies that county government had something to do with it. The claim was made in a Fulton County news release, after all.
To determine whether Fulton's decrease in teen pregnancy is unusual, we looked at county, state and national statistics for females 15 through 19 between 2000 and 2006.
Nationally, the pregnancy rate for teens dropped from 48 to 42 per 1,000, or 12.5 percent. Across Georgia, the drop was about 14 percent -- 81.3 to 67.6 per 1,000. For Georgia's nonrural counties, it fell from 79 to 66 per 1,000, or about 16 percent.
In the metro area, Clayton County (at 83.4 per 1,000), DeKalb County (at 67.5 per 1,000) and Gwinnett County (at 62.1 per 1,000) all had higher pregnancy rates in 2006. And while Cobb County's pregnancy rate was lower than Fulton's at 51.5 per 1,000, its decrease between 2000 and 2006 was less than half of Fulton's, at about 17 percent.
There you go. Fulton County's 40 percent drop was unique.
Now, did Fulton County government have anything to do with it?
Probably. We interviewed three experts who said it is extremely difficult to measure the exact effect of a community's teen pregnancy prevention efforts. However, it's reasonable to assume that a county that implements programs with a proven record of success has something to do with the drop in the pregnancy rate.
Fulton does a share of that work. For years, it has provided pregnancy tests, contraceptives, counseling, health education classes, abstinence-based education, community outreach and five health centers that focus on adolescent health and development.
Nongovernment organizations in Fulton do a lot, also. Grady Memorial Hospital, which is located in Fulton County, provides clinical services and outreach. Its clinic saw just under 2,000 teens in 2009. Its educational outreach program reached 3,000 teens. The Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health at Emory University develops and researches successful sex education methods and disseminates information to teens and professionals.
While Grady, the Jane Fonda Center and other resources have likely played a major role in the reduction of teenage pregnancy rates, it's fair to give credit to Fulton County as well. We rate its claim as True.
Fulton County Website, Press Release, "Teen Clinic Takes on Talks about Teen Pregnancy," accessed May 26, 2010.
The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. "National Birth Rates for Teens, aged 15-19," accessed June 1, 2010.
Interview with Bill Albert, chief program officer with the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy
Interview with Dr. Melissa Kottke, directer of the Jane Fonda Center for Adolescent Reproductive Health at Emory University
Interview with Laura Gaydos, assistant professor, Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University
Interview, Michele Ozumba, president and chief executive officer, Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention
Georgia Division of Community Health, Online Analytical Statistical Information System
E-mail statement, Fulton County government, May 28, 2010
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