Almost half of high school students in the United States report that they have had sexual intercourse. That reality — that 47 percent of high school students report having had intercourse — is a wakeup call to adults who care about adolescent and teen health, particularly girls who are at risk for becoming pregnant.

In the United States, teen birth rates continue to decline (a public health success), but in 2013, about 273,000 births still occurred to mothers ages 15 to 19. Butte-Silver Bow has a higher teen birth rate than Montana as a whole — 32.3 per 1,000 females ages 15 to 19, compared to 27.4 per 1,000 for the rest of the state, as of 2015. (Top U.S. performers in this health ranking stand at about 15 per 1,000 females.)

The U.S. government, through its Healthy People 2020 objectives, has pinpointed how communities can reduce the teen pregnancy and birth rate (we’re paying great attention right now because May is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month):

• Reduce pregnancy rates among adolescent females

• Increase the proportion of adolescents ages 17 years and under who’ve never had sexual intercourse

• Increase the proportion of sexually active people ages 15 to 19 who use condoms to both effectively prevent pregnancy and provide barrier protection against disease;

• Increase the proportion of sexually active people ages 15 to 19 who use condoms and hormonal or intrauterine contraception to both effectively prevent pregnancy and provider barrier protection against disease

• Increase the proportion of adolescents who receive formal instruction on reproductive health topics before they’re 18 years old

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