Dramatic drop in under-18 pregnancy rates

Websites like Getting it on offer advice to teenagers Photo: Cat Wiener

Croydon reduced its rates of teenage pregnancy by a third in a single year, bringing the figure down to below the London average, according to the latest statistics.

Figures released by the Office of National Statistics show that conception rates for women aged 15-17 were 41.5 per 1,000 in early 2009, compared with a figure of 62 per 1,000 for the same period in 2008. These figures put Croydon below the London average of 42.5 per 1,000 for teenage conceptions, and just above the overall average figure for England of 39.5 per 1,000.

Reducing teenage pregnancies is seen as vital to improving the health and wellbeing of the population overall and has been a key priority for Croydon health services and the local council. Croydon’s Director of Public Health, Dr Peter Brambleby, welcomed the latest figures, saying: “Teenage parents and their children often face significantly worse health and education outcomes. In recent years we have made reducing the rate of teen pregnancies in Croydon one of our highest priorities and we are delighted to see that our new initiatives and campaigns are already starting to help reduce conception rates”.

These initiatives have included

• improving sex and relationship education in schools

• a new sexual health drop-in service at local colleges

• specialised sexual health advice established at a number of high-street pharmacies by NHS Croydon

• a young people’s sexual health outreach team to target support for those considered most at risk, for example ‘looked after’ children and young people

Outreach work is also being done by youth organisations such as Connexions and sexual advice is increasingly offered on a number of websites targeted at young people, and the 4-Lads clinics, run by Croydon NHS, works with teenage boys to help them deal with both their health concerns and sexual responsibility.

Katie Greenaway, a young person’s sexual health outreach nurse at NHS Croydon, runs regular sexual health clinics in Croydon colleges and believes greater flexibility and accessibility of services has been key to reaching more young people: “We make sure our confidential drop-in clinics are run at times convenient for young people and we publicise them widely. As a result we have seen an increase in the numbers of people attending the sessions”.

A website, Getting It On,  has also been developed specifically to advise young people in southwest London where they can get access to sexual health services and support.

Despite Croydon’s recent success, it is still some way off from the national target of a 50% reduction in teenage pregnancy by 2010, from a 1998 baseline, set by the former Labour government. However, Kate Greenaway stresses that it is an ongoing process: “I’m encouraged to see that more young people in Croydon are taking a longer-term view about their sexual health and well-being, and I’m convinced that this project and others will help that to continue.”

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