OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLA.: April 6, 2021 – Oklahoma County’s teen birth rate has increased 2%, from 29.8 in 2018 (732 births) to 30.4 in 2019 (761 births). This increase aligns with the rest of the state as the majority of Oklahoma counties with data to report also saw increases from 2018 to 2019, including Tulsa County.
Laura Lang, CEO of Thrive—the backbone organization for the Central Oklahoma Teen Pregnancy Prevention Collaboration (the Collaboration)—is cautiously optimistic. “While Oklahoma County overall has seen an increase, the birth rate among 15-17-year-olds has remained stable. We are thrilled with the success we are seeing there and thankful for our partners who have dedicated so much of their programming to this age group. However, these data also serve as a wake-up call and a reminder that we need to keep focusing on traditionally underserved populations.”
In the case of adolescent sexual health, underserved populations include 18-19-year-olds—who make up 73% of the births in the county—and Black and Hispanic teens who have higher birth rates than their peers. To once again see decreases in the teen birth rate, Thrive says understanding where and how to focus future efforts is critically important.
Lang points back to the Collaboration’s comprehensive plan Momentum Matters where these underserved populations were mentioned. “If we want to succeed in our efforts, our Collaboration must have a laser-sharp focus on the health disparities and inequities that exist locally, including those that exist by age, race, and geography, with additional attention paid to identified priority populations.”
The comprehensive plan describes “priority populations” as: children of immigrants or refugees, homeless youth, youth in foster care, youth in the juvenile justice system, LGBTQ+ youth, and youth with disabilities.
“Anytime we see an increase in teen birth rates, it certainly gets our attention,” said Lang, “but I encourage us to pay attention to the overall trend lines and really understand whether this a one-year blip or are teen birth rates really starting to go back up in Oklahoma County? This is an important question for our Collaboration and community partners to pay attention to.”
When looking at the trend lines as Lang suggests, the success of Oklahoma County in reducing teen births is clear. In fact, the teen birth rate in Oklahoma County decreased 41% from 2013 to 2019. These declines exceeded state and national decreases over the same time period.
Join Lang and Forrest Alton, former CEO of the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, for a Facebook Live event (facebook.com/thriveokc) on April 12 at 3 p.m. to dive deeper into what this means for Oklahoma County and future teen pregnancy prevention efforts.