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Tulsa County birth rate declines dramatically through support of local initiatives

Amplify Youth Health Collective's executive director Heather Duvall (left) and director of learning and impact Jenny Briggs (right) in Amplify's office.
Jillian Taylor
StateImpact Oklahoma
Amplify Youth Health Collective's executive director Heather Duvall (left) and director of learning and impact Jenny Briggs (right) in Amplify's office.

New data shows Tulsa County’s teen birth rate has declined by 67% from 2009 to 2022, thanks to support from local initiatives introducing education and contraceptive services to Tulsa youth.

The George Kaiser Family Foundation reported Tulsa County’s teen birth rate was 57.2 teen births per every 1,000 females aged 15-19 in 2009. In 2022, it was 18.9 teen births per every 1,000 females aged 15-19.

The foundation’s senior program officer Kimberly Butler said the foundation took notice of the county’s need in 2009. At the time, she said sex education was not approved by school boards, and there were few support services available for teens.

“No one was working together,” Butler said.

That’s why the foundation invested in two programs called Amplify Youth Health Collective and the Take Control Initiative. The groups introduced evidence-based sex education into local schools and provided access to free contraception. The result of this investment was a teen birth rate that is now below the state’s, which was 21.2 per 1,000 females aged 15-19 in 2022.

“Our focus is really to make sure that every young child has an equal opportunity at success in life, and really by focusing on things like early childhood education and other support services,” Butler said.

Butler said this success is exciting, but it comes at an interesting point for Oklahoma. The state has considered restricting sex education in recent legislative sessions, and additional restrictions are on the table this session through Senate Bill 1563 and House Bill 3120. Both would require parents to provide consent for their kids to participate in sex ed instead of opting them out if they don’t want them to participate.

Opt-in policies can create barriers for young people in accessing sex education, according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. Butler said this information is important for creating better outcomes in the state.

“I would just love for more people to realize that this is an empowering program. This is stuff to help kids have better negotiation skills, so they're not having sex prematurely before they're ready,” Butler said.

Butler said she hopes Tulsa can continue making change and serve as a model for other communities on how to give teens an equal opportunity at success.

“I feel so lucky to be a part of the Tulsa community,” Butler said. “We have such great people, such smart organizations doing great work, and to be a small part in the collaboration and seeing these reductions is quite incredible.”

StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.

Jillian Taylor reports on health and related topics for StateImpact Oklahoma.
StateImpact Oklahoma reports on education, health, environment, and the intersection of government and everyday Oklahomans. It's a reporting project and collaboration of KGOU, KOSU, KWGS and KCCU, with broadcasts heard on NPR Member stations.
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