To the Editor,
I am writing in response to Rev. Dwayne Lowry’s letter to the editor recently published in The Robesonian regarding the DHHS Division of Public Health’s teen pregnancy report and his concern over a lack of representation of American Indian teen pregnancy rates.
As Rev. Lowry referenced, according to the U.S. Census, 39 percent of the Robeson County population is American Indian. However, only 1.5 percent of the state population is American Indian. The teen pregnancy report is a statewide look at one specific health indicator and represents the population breakdowns that have enough statewide numbers to produce reliable rates.
This is because rates based on too few numbers can be misleading. We appreciate the Rev. Lowry’s concern over public awareness of teen pregnancy and agree that the issue deserves the attention of the entire population. According to state data from 2008 to 2012, the teen pregnancy rate for American Indians in Robeson County averages 87.7 pregnancies per 1,000 population compared with 77.4 for the state as a whole. It is higher than the rates for white and black teens, 54.5 and 76.3, respectively, but lower than the Hispanic rate of 108.8 per 1,000 population.
Our state is fortunate to have an important resource in the State Center for Health Statistics, which collects and publishes data on many demographic subgroups as well as county-level data. Specific information is available to be shared with partners and individual counties as requested at no charge.
We respect our state’s American Indian population and are eager to share data and collaborate on programs to improve health outcomes. Our mission in gathering and reporting public health data for the past 100 years in our state has always been to better understand the status of health in our population. Armed with data, we and our local partners are better prepared to take action to improve the health of all citizens in our state.
Dr. Robin Cummings
Acting director deputy secretary
N.C. Department of Health and Human Services