COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - New numbers show efforts to lower South Carolina's teen pregnancy rate have been successful for the fourth year in a row.
The Department of Health and Environmental Control releases new numbers every January from the previous full calendar year. The latest numbers from 2011 show there was an 8 percent drop from 2010 in the number of teens ages 15 to 19 who got pregnant.
While the South Carolina Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy says the decline is something to celebrate, they also say the numbers are still too high.
"The first part of the story is the good news, the second part of the story, of course, is that we have a tremendous amount of work to do," said Forrest Alton, the CEO of SC Campaign.
Alton says South Carolina currently ranks 11th nationwide for the highest number of teen births.
"Six thousand girls in our state under the age of 20 still become mothers every single year, and I don't think any of us would want to call that success," said Alton.
Alton points to the steady decline in the state's teen birth rate as a sign that prevention efforts are making an impact.
"Our teen pregnancy rates have come down about 40 percent since the early 1990's, which is really exciting news," he added.
Alton attributes the drop to more teens choosing abstinence and choosing to use contraception, as well as, the community opening up the conversation.
"I think 10 or 15 years ago we thought if we don't talk about it, maybe it will just go away and we know that's just not the truth anymore," said Alton. "Young people are bombarded with sexual messages all the time from MTV and the media and the Internet and their friends at school, so we don't have a choice whether or not we want to talk about this issue. The choice we have is who do we want to deliver the information to teens, my choice would be that parents and caring adults are the messengers here."
Alton says because of that, it's never too early to talk to your children.
"Obviously what we're telling a 5-year-old is not what we're telling a 15-year-old," said Alton. "We may be talking about good touch and bad touch and family values, and 'Mom and Dad love you' and some of those kinds of things. Those messages at a very young are equally as important as not having sex or using contraception when we're talking to older teens."
According to SC Campaign, teen births cost taxpayers in South Carolina $197 million dollars annually. Seventy-two percent of teen births in the state are teenagers 18 and 19 years old.
For the latest on state and county numbers visit: http://www.teenpregnancysc.org/.