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LBJ Family Planning Division working for a lower rate of teen pregnancy

With more active prevention and awareness programs put in place for two years now, the program manager of LBJ Hospital’s Family Planning Division hopes for a much lower rate of teen pregnancy in the territory.


Marilyn A. Pavitt-Anesi who heads the division, says that data on teen pregnancy between 2010 and 2013 shows an increase of only point-three of one percent, but “we would like to see the numbers as low as possible or even zero when it comes to teen pregnancy.”


However, she noted, “… It’s never going to be zero, and we have to face that, we have to face that reality,” in an interview with Samoa News at her LBJ office.


Data provided by Pavitt-Anesi, whose medical credentials include being a Registered Nurse and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner-Board Certified (WHNP-BC) as well as a Mobile Intensive Care Nurse (MICN), show that teen pregnancy in the Territory (covering ages 14 through 19) are as follows:


•            2013: total births: 1,155 in which 138 of them are teen mothers. Breakdown by age: 14-year olds - 1; 15-year olds - 6; 16-years old - 5; 17-years - 23; 18-year old - 43; 19-year olds - 60.


•            2012: total births: 1,169. 136 of those were teen births.


•            2011: total births: 1,262 143 of those were teen births.


“Based on these numbers, 17 to 19 year olds have the biggest numbers in teen pregnancy during the three-year period,” Pavitt-Anesi said, adding that the higher the total birth for the territory, the higher the percent for teen pregnancy.


She said the first data on teen pregnancy, which is available at her office, shows that in 1996 total births at the time included 7% from teens.


“And the percentage of teen pregnancy increased over the years, with 2009 at 9.3% and in 2011 the percent of teen births was 11.3%,” she said.


“So when I came in February 2012 and looked at past data including 2011, our office found there is something wrong with this picture with the increase of teen births — yet we have all these programs available through Family Planning” she said.


“We then reevaluated and assessed the programs including our outreach program which is taken to youth organizations, church groups and schools.”


Among the changes implemented and included in the programs targeting teenagers, is a  partnership with Education Department’s Guidance and Counseling Office, headed by Maria Tuato’o, who is “really progressive” according to Anesi, as she added that Tuato’o’s office played an important role in reaching the schools.


With this DOE partnership, the Family Planning program was first taken to the “whole of Fagaitua High School,” she said, adding that prior to the DOE partnership, “we would go in once in a few months and talk to either an assembly or a classroom of students.”


“But this time, with Guidance and Counseling, we are now able to go in and take over a period. For example, instead of a U.S. History period, students will have health education,” she said, adding that they would talk to students about health issues such as development of the person’s body in the their teen years, and preventing at — risk behaviors.


“We also talked about how to say ‘no’ and mean it — and the consequences of having unprotected sex or having sex,” she said. “The best thing of course is abstinence, but we will be burying our heads in the sand if we think that nobody is doing it. So we have to be realistic.”


Last year, this program with DOE as a partner, was taken to Samoana High School and Family Planning hopes to complete the program in the next month or so.


“So our plan is — we’re going to go through all of the schools, and Marie Tuato’o and her office, are going to help us with that,” she said, and again praised Tuato’o and DOE for all their support in getting the message out to teenagers.


“We also have partners in other ASG entities as well as non government organizations and they all play a role in reaching out to teens,” she said.


Another program implemented by Pavaitt-Anesi is the teen peer mentoring, which was the first program of its type at the time, and it began early last year. “After we instituted this program, we noticed that more and more teenagers are starting to come to our office for private discussions, which are all confidential,” she said.


In the first half of 2013, “we noticed an increase in the number of teens coming in to our office, for check ups, to talk about pregnancy issues and other health matters,” she said and pointed out that for the Family Planning Clinic, “We don’t need a parent’s consent under federal law— which supersedes state or local law — when it comes to students under 18-years-old. We do have special consent forms for minors.”


She said the teen peer mentoring program is very important because it’s a forum where teens talk to each other about issues that they usually are unable to share with an adult. “The whole idea of the teen peer mentoring program, is to have their teen peers talk to them, have them empower the youth,” she said but noted that this program is not yet available for Manu’a due to current problems with transportation.


Last year, some 100 students were recruited for the teen mentoring program, but a majority of them, have graduated and are attending the American Samoa Community College. So on May 3 this year, there will be a new teen peer mentoring training for new recruits to work with Family Planning along with DOE, she said.


This summer, said Pavitt-Anesi, “we will prepare to bring in ASCC under the peer mentoring program.”


Next week, other issues will be covered from the interview with Pavitt-Anesi.