Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Holyoke approves plan to address teen births

from The Republican
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
By KEN ROSS

HOLYOKE - After two years of meetings, a unified plan to address the city's high teenage birthrate was finalized this week by city officials and community groups.

"This is great," said City Councilor Diosdado Lopez on Monday. "It's long overdue. It's an issue the city has been struggling with for years."

He chairs the City Council's Redevelopment Committee, which voted on Monday in favor of recommending a one-page document outlining a strategy for addressing the teenage birthrate. The recommendations will be forwarded to the council, which will meet on May 5 and must ultimately vote on the recommendations.

The panel has been studying the issue for more than two years, Lopez said. The council first referred the issue to it in March 2007.

Monday's document recommends the creation of a task force that will meet monthly and include representatives from the state, the mayor's office, the council, the Health and School departments, and religious community "in order to collaborate their time, effort, and resources in working to reduce the city's high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases."

According to the most recent statistics, Holyoke's teenage birthrate was 95.4 out of 1,000 births in 2007, making it the highest in the state.

Lesley J. Kayan, the senior community health educator at Planned Parenthood's Springfield office, praised the council for taking action.

"I just think it's wonderful the City Council cares about this issue," she said. "They're being proactive and caring about these children."

Sarah T. Dunton, director of youth development programs at Girls Inc., agreed. "I'm hopeful. We know the issues. Residents of Holyoke know the issues. To put energy at this level is really important."

City Councilor Elaine A. Pluta, who attended Monday's meeting, hoped that the committee's work results in the creation of a task force.

"These are just recommendations," she said. "Hopefully, they (residents) will take the ball and run with it."

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1 Comments:

At May 6, 2009 at 11:15 PM , Blogger Rebecca Lisi said...

For those who are interested, I have included the full text of the approved recommendations:

Recommendations from the Redevelopment Committee of the Holyoke City Council regarding high Teen Birth Rates in the City of Holyoke:



Because the teen birth rate in the City of Holyoke in 2007 was 95.4 out of 1000 births, making it the highest in the State, a concerted effort is initiated through the Mayor's Office, the City Council, the School Committee and School Department, the Religious Community, and all local service organizations who deal with this issue to become unified in proclaiming that education on reproductive health and sexuality is vital to the prevention of high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.


In proclaiming that education on reproductive health and sexuality is of vital importance, we propose that the social organizations working with teen pregnancy form a task force that will meet monthly and include representatives from State government, the Mayor's Office, City Council, School Committee, School Department, and Religious groups in order to collaborate their time, effort, and resources in working to reduce the City's high rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.


The School Department, who is responsible for the education of all of Holyoke’s children so that they may become hard working and productive members of our society should make reproductive health and sexuality a priority by implementing a science-based health curriculum and helping to stress the economic loss for both teens and the community at large when teens become pregnant or father a child before they are ready.


Youth, both male and female, from all the City's High Schools should be included in addressing the high incidence of pregnancy by getting them involved in outreach with their peers on reproductive health and sexuality. This effort could take many forms such as a speaker's club of teens that have had firsthand experience with teen pregnancy could be available to local radio talk shows, television shows, and any groups who can actively engage an audience of teens. These youth should assist in developing and promulgating a positive message about prevention of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases.


Parents who are the most influential persons in their teenagers lives, according to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, March, 2007, survey, be provided tools and trainings by the task force to assist them in helping their children understand reproductive health and sexuality such that they may make educated decisions about their bodies and realize the critical financial, emotional, and educational aspects of that decision. Planned Parenthood and other local organization can collaborate with the task force to make workshops available to assist parents with this endeavor.


The State Delegation should be encouraged to participate in reducing the teen birth rate by passing legislation making education on reproductive health and sexuality a requirement for school districts and targeting grade levels that catch students before they are thinking about having sexual relationships.

 

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