Teenage pregnancy rates on the rise in Norfolk
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Teenage pregnancy rates in Norfolk have risen amid a warning from experts that public health cuts could worsen progress.
In previous figures covering June 2016 to June 2017, the county saw the lowest ever teenage pregnancy rates on record, but new Office for National Statistics data showed 18.3 in 100,000 women aged 15 to 17 got pregnant in the three months to March 2018 - the latest data available.
This was higher than during the same period in 2017, when the rate was 16.7 in 100,000. In comparison, the rate across England fell from 18.6 to 16.9 per 100,000.
Teenage pregnancy has fallen in Norfolk in recent years, but the pace of change has been slower than across England as a whole. There were 59 pregnancies in Norfolk in the first three months of 2018, compared to 105 in 2011 - a fall of 44pc.
But the spokesman for the British Pregnancy Advice Service (Bpas) said: "We know that public health budgets have faced deep cuts in recent years, with over a third of local authorities reducing, or planning to reduce, their contraceptive services since 2015. It is really important that services are maintained so that regional variations, which will be due to complex factors, do not become more pronounced."
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Norfolk County Council spent £6.98m on commissioning sexual health services in 2016/17, this dropped to £6.91m the following year, and to £6.78m in 2018/19.
But a spokesman for Public Health at Norfolk County Council said lowering the teenage pregnancy rate remained a priority.
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They said: "Over the last 2 years the teenage pregnancy rate has reduced in Norfolk. We are working with five teenage pregnancy sub-groups covering Breckland and west, Great Yarmouth, the south and Norwich city. These groups are co-ordinating local initiatives to ensure that young people have the knowledge and skills to make safe and healthy choices, as well as giving young people the confidence to access and use contraception at the stage they become sexually active."
They added the Terrence Higgins Trust helped ensure the targeted distribution of free contraception C-Cards. Plus over the last two years, a single point of access, a health passport app, a text messaging service, and podcasts had been introduced. A sexual health review was also launched in March.