Feb 14, 2011 7:10 PM by David Ortiviz

Research firm studies teen pregnancy in Pueblo

A new study is underway in Pueblo to find out why the city has one of highest teen pregnancy rates in the state. It's costing taxpayers millions as many young moms struggle to finish high school. The health department has now hired a research firm to study why its such a problem.

"It's been a problem for years and years in Pueblo," said Sarah Ruybalid, Director of Community Health Services for the Pueblo City-County Health Department.

"Last year more than 300 teenage girls gave birth in Pueblo County, which is 300 too many," said Ruybalid. The health department will study the issue using $50,000 from the Pueblo County Department of Social Services.

The health department hired a research firm in Denver, John Snow Inc. to lead the project. Soon they'll hold focus groups with sexually active teens, to learn how they've avoided parenthood. "They're very concerned about teens being able to speak freely and not be under anyone's influence," said Ruybalid.

Some might think teens could be influenced by their peers in the room. We brought that issue up with the health department, but Ruybalid says the researchers have assured them focus groups are accurate. "We're going to trust our researchers," said Ruybalid.

The health department's goal is to better understand sexual attitudes and behaviors among young people so they can reduce teen pregnancies and their impact on society. The health department says in 2009, Pueblo taxpayers paid more than $8.5 million to support teenage moms and their babies through public assistance programs.

"Teen pregnancy affects everyone in the community," said Ruybalid. The health department also says roughly two thirds of teenage moms drop out of school. "And that's why its so important to us to do this study and get some real facts about why is this happening to them to be able to make some change in our community," said Ruybalid.

As an incentive, John Snow Inc. is giving $30 and food to teens who participate in the focus groups. Females are told to call 1-877-892-0999. Males should call 1-877-371-0750.



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