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Program to reduce teen pregnancy in Hennepin Co. gets $7.5M federal boost

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A program that has proven successful on reducing teen pregnancies in Hennepin County has been given federal backing of $7.5 million over the next five years.

Hennepin County announced Thursday that its Better Together Hennepin initiative has won the grant in order to "expand successful, evidence-based programming to prevent teen pregnancies."

Between its inception in 2007 to the end of 2013, teen pregnancies in the county almost halved, which has been put down in no small part to education in targeted areas of the country delivered through the program.

Better Together Hennepin uses data to track where the most teens are giving birth (hotspots include Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Central and North Minneapolis, Richfield and Robbinsdale) and target them with programs that divert them away from risky behaviors or teach them to stay safe and healthy once they become sexually active.

In 2013, a total of 597 babies were born to mothers aged between 15 and 19 in the county, down from 701 in 2012 and a huge fall from the 1,170 born in 2007.

How will the money help?

Hennepin County has set itself an ambitious goal of reducing teen pregnancies by a further 30 percent by 2020.

The money will allow the county to expand its program and implements the "It's OUR Future" project, which will bring sex ed and health initiatives to more Hennepin County schools and clinics. It is expected to reach 32,665 young people in the next five years.

"Everyone benefits when young people wait until they are adults to become parents," said Katherine Meerse, Better Together Hennepin program manager, in a press release.

"Young people who postpone parenthood are more likely to finish high school and become contributing members of the workforce," she added. "Children born to adults are more likely to have a healthy birth weight and be prepared for school. Taxpayers profit from reduced welfare rolls and less spending on publicly funded medical care."

Minnesota has a relatively low rate of teenage pregnancy compared to the national average.

In 2010, the Office of Adolescent Health ranked the state 44th out of 51 states (50 plus Washington DC) for teen pregnancies.

Last year, Teenwise Minnesota said that teenage pregnancy among 15-19 year olds had fallen 58 percent between 1990 and 2012, with the teen birth rate having fallen by 49 percent in the same period.

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