The Center for Health Disparities Research (CHDR) at UNLV is leading a community wide effort to combat rising teen pregnancy rates in Southern Nevada.
As part of a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the CHDR is partnering with local churches and community non-profits to develop and carry out a pregnancy prevention program targeting African American youth - a group disproportionately affected by teen pregnancy. Births by 15-19 year-olds have increased steadily since 2005, with one in ten U.S. births involving a teen mother.
"Nevada leads the nation in teen pregnancy and it's critical we come together as a community and find effective ways to address an issue that is greatly affecting our youth," said Melva Thompson-Robinson, project lead and executive director of the CHDR. "It's also important to understand the allure of 'Sin City' and the effect this type-casting has on those growing up in Las Vegas."
The program is modeled after Becoming a Responsible Teen (BART), a successful HIV/AIDS prevention effort designed to help teens understand risk factors associated with becoming sexually active and to improve their ability to navigate high-pressure situations.
BART is based on social learning theory, which supports the idea that teens can act more effectively to avoid problems if they're exposed to alternatives and have the opportunity to work through and discuss difficult issues among their peers. During the eight-week program, teens will learn about safe sex, discuss the risks and myths associated with HIV/AIDS and develop communication skills through role-playing scenarios based on stressful situations that often lead to poor decision making.
The CHDR will kick-off the project with a community summit on teen pregnancy this spring, followed by BART training in at least 15 participating local churches. Local program partners include Education for Quality Living, Community Partners for Better Health and the First African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The Center for Health Disparities Research is housed within the UNLV School of Community Health Sciences and conducts academic and community-based research used to develop public health programming and guide public policy to eliminate health disparities in Southern Nevada.