Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Marathon Training and Teen Pregnancy Prevention are more Similar than You Might Think

I am not a natural runner.  Some people run and look graceful, powerful, effortless. Not me.  I look like I am running mile 10 when I am on mile 2. I look like I am fighting for every step.  But, nonetheless, running has become a really important part of my life. Along with two friends, I get up at 5:00 in the morning 3-4 times a week to run, and I completed my first half marathon last year.  I was supposed to run my second half-marathon this weekend, but instead found myself frustrated on the sidelines with an injury.

This unwelcome break gave me a chance to reflect on what makes running so special to me. Running is simple and hard.  It is continuing to put one foot in front of the other, even when all you want to do is quit. It is taking setbacks, like an injury, in stride, and it's knowing that you’ll get better if you put in the work.  Occasionally, there is a big accomplishment along the way that makes all the work pay off.

 It is not too much of a stretch to think about lowering the rates of teen pregnancy as a marathon.  One of the central tenets of the SC Campaign is that we are committed to prevention now and in the long term.  Teen pregnancy prevention is not simple  -- it is hard, and the challenges facing South Carolina are daunting.  We have the 12th highest teen birth rate in the country.  We are disproportionately and negatively affected by child poverty, health disparities, and other indicators of child wellbeing.

 However, through steadfast commitment to young people, the SC Campaign continues to invest in strategies that work such as effective, evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs;  accessible contraception for teens who are sexually active; and helping parents have conversations about sex, love, and healthy relationships. We are able to maintain this commitment because we have a vision of young people who have the chance to go to college, who are empowered to make decisions about their health, and  who can wait until they are ready to start a family.  While we have some significant challenges, we also have some major accomplishments.  Teen birth rates have never been lower in the state or in the nation. These decreases represent real people: young people who have a chance to finish high school, go to college, start a job or otherwise continue to build their vision of the future without the responsibility of pregnancy and parenthood until they are ready.  So, just as I will keep getting up far too early to go for a run, we will all keep working to help young people in our state have the chance to build the future they want. 

- Shannon Flynn is the Research and Evaluation Director at the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Contact Shannon at sflynn@teenpregnancysc.org

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