Young people in the South have higher STD and teen pregnancy rates than their peers in other US regions, and the solution may be comprehensive sex education, according to a recent study by Auburn University-Montgomery's Center for Demographic Research (AUM-CDR).
The study concentrated on 10 states -- Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. AUM-CDR researchers estimated teen childbirth expenses in the region cost the local, state and federal government $2.3 billion in 2008.
"We knew that abstinence-only is not really working as much as we would like," said principal investigator and AUM-CDR Director Yanyi Djamba. "It's not a bad thing, it is just not working." Parents, teachers, elected officials and youth should insist upon greater access to quality sex education in schools, Djamba said.
According to the report, upwards of 90 percent of parents are not against presenting evidence-based, age-appropriate sex education in schools. All 10 states were granted new federal support for adolescent sexual health and teen pregnancy prevention education encompassing abstinence, healthy relationships, contraception and STDs.
"We can't afford not to address this as a medical profession," said Dr. Bernard Eichold, head of the Mobile County Public Health Department. "It does not surprise me that young people are not going to make good decisions if they do not have good sources of information," he said. "They need to know everything before they reach reproductive age."