Susan Reimer was right on the money when she suggested "[paying] for the programs that help teens understand sex and make good decisions about it, and [paying] for the health care services that provide them with options for contraception," as a sensible approach to preventing teen pregnancies. ("Preventing teen pregnancy saves taxpayers billions," June 15). As a national nonprofit whose vision is: "a national community where all adolescents and young adults, including teen parents, are supported and empowered to lead healthy sexual, reproductive, and family lives," Healthy Teen Network couldn't agree more.
Teen birth rates in Baltimore are among the highest in the nation. In late 2010, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake unveiled the Strategic Plan to Reduce Teen Births in Baltimore City, the result of a collaboration between Healthy Teen Network, the Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute and Center for Adolescent Health, and the Baltimore City Health Department. Recommendations in the strategic plan to significantly reduce teen birth rates include: increased access to comprehensive sex education and contraceptive services for youth; educating youth about the availability of services and what it really means to be a teen parent; expanding school based or school linked clinical services; identifying a lead agency to implement the plan; and involving youth and community leaders at every step.
In developing the plan, we convened youth focus groups and interviewed community leaders across the city. One common thread emerged: that youth need to be treated differently — highlighting their value and engaging them in meaningful ways in their communities. While we understand the benefits of appealing to the financial sensibilities of policy makers and the public alike, we mustn't lose sight of the fact that the youth of Baltimore need and deserve our support in increasing access to evidence-based sexuality education and confidential contraceptive services.
We look forward to the implementation of the plan in Baltimore City and to fewer teen births and more positive outcomes for our city's youth as a result.
Kelly Connelly, Baltimore
The writer is communications coordinator for Healthy Teen Network.