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Grant to fund sex education

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By Amelia Harper
Staff Writer

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Edgecombe County's dubious distinction of having one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the state has qualified it for a new state grant designed to offer new sex education programs for teenagers.

Edgecombe County was one of three counties in the state to receive funding through the Project REACH grant, which stands for Redefining Empowering Adolescent Community Health. Graham and Richmond counties also received the grant.

Meredith Capps, health education supervisor with the Edgecombe County Health Department, presented information about the grant to the Edgecombe County Board of Education earlier this month. The primary implementation of this program will be through the school system.

Capps said Edgecombe County was selected for the grant for several reasons.

“Edgecombe County is a Tier One county, which means we are one of the most economical distressed counties in the state,” Capps said. “Edgecombe is also among the top 10 counties in the state for the highest STD rates. Teen pregnancy and STDs continue to be an issue and education on these topics is desperately needed.”

Capps said the 2013 Edgecombe County Community Needs assessment revealed that 82 percent of Edgecombe County residents who took the survey said unintended pregnancies are a major problem in the community.

According to information presented in the grant proposal, Edgecombe County's teen pregnancy rate is nearly twice that of the North Carolina average. In 2013, Edgecombe County's teen pregnancy rate for 15-19 year-old females was 55.7 per thousand in the population compared to 28.4 per thousand statewide.

Edgecombe County also ranks high in terms of reported cases of sexually transmitted diseases. It ranks first in the state for cases of HIV, second in the state for cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea, third for cases of AIDS and tenth for cases of syphillis.

Health department officials hope the new education programs provided through the REACH grant will make an impact on the problem. As a result of the five-year grant, two new sex education programs will be piloted in the school system this year and are slated to be fully implemented next year.

One of the programs will be directed toward middle school students. The program, called Make Proud Choices! A Safer Sex Approach to STDs, Teen Pregnancy and HIV Prevention, is an eight-module curriculum that “provides adolescents with the knowledge, confidence and skills necessary to reduce their risk of STDs, HIV and pregnancy by abstaining from sex or using condoms if they choose to have sex,” Capps said.

According to the grant proposal, the program not only will be offered during school hours but will also be made available as an after-school program at the the Edgecombe County Health Department. The stated goal is to recruit students outside of the public school system to attend these classes, such as students in charter, private and home schools and those who have dropped out of school altogether.

The other sex education program supported by the grant is designed for high-school students. This program, entitled Reducing the Risk, is a 16-session curriculum designed to “help high school students delay the initiation of sex or increase the use of protection against pregnancy and STD/HIV if they choose to have sex,” Capps said.

“This research-proven approach addresses skills such as risk assessment, communication, decision-making, planning, refusal strategies and delay tactics,” Capps said.

Capps said parents will be allowed a role in deciding whether or not students take these courses and will have opportunities to participate in parent education programs as well.

“The parents will have the option to allow or not allow their teen to participate in the program,” Capps said. “Parent education will be offered as part of the program’s community engagement efforts, which will be held in various locations throughout Edgecombe County. The parent education sessions will include current county statistics, HIV/STDs information and an opportunity to review the curricula and ask questions.”

Details as to when and where these courses will be piloted in Edgecombe County Public Schools this year are still being decided.

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