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As Teen Birth Rate Falls, Rural Counties Lag Behind

floyduk via flickr

New Mexico’s teen birth rate is the lowest ever recorded - that’s according to new statistics from the state Department of Health. But the drop isn’t spread evenly across the state.

The birth rate for 15- to 19-year-olds here dropped nearly 50 percent between 2000 and 2014. But Susan Lovett with the state Department of Health said progress has been slower in New Mexico’s rural areas. Luna County has the highest teen birth rate in the state, followed by Lea County.

"New Mexico’s a very rural state, and there do tend to be more teen births in rural areas than in other areas," she said.

Problems in education, poverty, and low access to healthcare for rural communities make teen pregnancy a tougher issue in those areas, Lovett said.

The Department of Health is stepping up contraception and family planning programs in Luna and Lea Counties, and will expand those programs into other parts of the state in coming years.

Ed Williams came to KUNM in 2014 by way of Carbondale, Colorado, where he worked as a public radio reporter covering environmental issues. Originally from Austin, Texas, Ed has reported on environmental, social justice, immigration and Native American issues in the U.S. and Latin America for the Austin American-Statesman, Z Magazine, NPR’s Latino USA and others. In his spare time, look for Ed riding his mountain bike in the Sandias or sparring on the jiu-jitsu mat.
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