By Maxine Williams, APRN, FNP, BC
Upstate Region Program Director
What better way is there to observe National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month than to recognize a county health department’s strong efforts to help reduce teen pregnancy?
To do that, we need look no further than the Spartanburg County Health Department. While no one entity or factor alone can be cited as the sole reason for the drop Spartanburg has seen in teen pregnancy rates, the county health department has done its part.
The health department has seen teenage pregnancy rates drop dramatically, due in part to a five-year grant that ended last year from the Centers for Prevention and Disease Control. While the goal was to reduce the teen pregnancy rate in the county by 10 percent, Spartanburg far surpassed that, reducing the rate 48 percent.
As it continued to work toward reducing rates, the health department participated in a learning collaborative throughout 2015 that gave it an opportunity to explore additional ways to effectively address teen pregnancy. Spartanburg was chosen for the collaborative, in part, because of its experience with addressing teen pregnancy via the CDC grant, which allowed the health department to build infrastructure in the community and take steps to increase teens’ access to services, among other things.
Spartanburg County Health Department, Upstate Region, was able to participate in the year-long experience thanks to funding from The Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation of South Carolina. The funds were administered by the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy and the Center for Health Services and Policy Research (USC CHSPR) at the University of South Carolina’s Arnold School of Public Health. The SC Campaign and USC CHSPR are partnering to implement the South Carolina Adolescent Reproductive Health Institute to facilitate health clinics’ adoption of evidence-based practices that can improve teen pregnancy prevention outcomes.
Groups participating in the year-long experience devised strategies and concepts using continuous quality improvement, or CQI. TEAM SPARTANS — a name chosen by team members — developed measurable goals to improve teen service provision at the Spartanburg County Health Department.
TEAM SPARTANS implemented several innovative strategies, including assessing data to determine when teens accessed services the most and when availability of services needed to be increased to meet peak demand. As a result of these strategies, the health department was able to serve a caseload of 734 — a 36 percent increase from the previous year’s caseload of 537. The members of TEAM SPARTANS (pictured above, left to right) included Maxine Williams, Program Director; Stephanie Bobak, Operations Director; Kenya Farley, PHRN, PH Team Leader; and Mike Newman, Spartanburg County Site Supervisor.
As part of the year-long learning collaborative, Kenya Farley served on a panel to discuss TEAM SPARTANS’ project aimed at improving teen service provision.
Moving the dial downward on teen pregnancy is what National Teen Pregnancy Month is all about. Held each May, the month is set aside to raise community awareness and support of effective teen pregnancy prevention initiatives. The month also serves as a catalyst for year-round efforts to support effective pregnancy prevention strategies and programs.
U.S. teen pregnancy and birth rates have declined dramatically over the past two decades and are now at historic lows. There has been significant progress in all 50 states and among all racial/ethnic groups. That said, U.S. rates of teen childbearing remain far higher than in other comparable countries, and continued education and access to services remain key to helping teens prevent unintended pregnancy.
The Spartanburg County experience illustrates continued vigilance to help move the dial.