- Associated Press - Sunday, May 8, 2016

KENAI, Alaska (AP) - Alaska’s teen birth rate is still dropping.

The state’s rate was 27.8 births per 1,000 teens ages 15-19 in 2014, according to the latest information from the Alaska Section of Epidemiology. The state’s rate is still higher than the national average of 24.2 births per 1,000 in the age group.

But Alaska’s teen births have fallen significantly from 42.6 per 1,000 in 2008, the Peninsula Clarion reported (http://bit.ly/1T66hZh). Nationally, teen births have dropped from 61.8 births per 1,000 teens in 1991.

The numbers only counts live births, not miscarriages, stillbirths or abortions. The data comes from the Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics.

State officials attribute the drop to an increased availability in contraceptives. But there is a wide regional disparity in Alaska, and the reasons why are unclear.

The Gulf Coast region, which includes the Kenai Peninsula, has the second-lowest rate in the state, with 20.9 out of every 1,000 teens giving birth in 2014, compared to the Northern region which had the highest rate in the state of 63.3 births per 1,000 teens in the same year.

“What we know is that factors such as socioeconomic status in the state may contribute to these variations,” said Katie Reilly, the adolescent health services coordinator for the Division of Public Health’s Section of Women’s, Children’s and Family Services. “The decline does actually decline with self-reported declines in sexual activity in abortions.”

According to the Section of Epidemiology, Medicaid expansion in may have helped reduce births among teens nationally by providing more access to family planning services. Gov. Bill Walker expanded Medicaid in 2015, so it remains unknown if it will affect the state’s birth rate.

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Information from: (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, http://www.peninsulaclarion.com

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