County sees 50-year low in teen birth rates

Local News

VERMILION COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Teen birth rates in the county have reached a 50-year low.

The health department says there are fewer teenage mothers than ever before and the data backs it up. Fewer than 10% of births in the county are to teenagers; 20-years ago the number was more than twice that.

The decrease seems to be part of a national trend. Health officials say another reason is more people in the county are getting health insurance.

Overall, teen birth rates are still higher than average, but officials say it’s a step in the right direction.

“Someone ran into my office and said, ‘You have to check this yourself to make sure I’m seeing this right.'”

Vermilion County public health administrator Doug Toole confirmed it himself: Teen birth rates are below 10% in the county for the first time ever.

“This is a milestone we weren’t expecting; a very happy milestone.”

Nationally, teen birth rates are on the decline, but Toole says increased insurance access in the county and public outreach are to thank.

“In 2015, the health department came together with Carle, Presence and United Way and formed a work group to look at this.”

Since then, they say schools expanded sex education programs and, last year, the department hired a community health educator to address the issue.

“It’s been a concern of ours for a long time.”

It’s because teen pregnancy rates have always been higher here than in the state. Right now, county numbers are still about twice as high as the state average.

Toole says he doesn’t know why that is, but they know how parents can help lower those rates among their kids.

“Keep communication open. Keep talking to them.”

Toole says some people try to put the high teen birth rate in the county on area poverty, but the rates have been consistently higher than the state average, even in the 1970’s, when the county had more wealth and industry.

The state’s average is just over 5%. In Champaign and Effingham counties, the rate is about 4%, while Ford, Coles and Iroquois counties have a rate of about 7%.

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