In 2012, a teen-wellness center opened inside the Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services, offering girls ages 12 to 19 physicals, immunizations, birth control and pregnancy testing. Architects of the center took input from actual teens when designing it, painting the walls bright colors and making it a secluded part of the department.
The goal was to reduce teen pregnancy rates in the county, which were among the highest in the state. And it worked. In two years, the rate has reduced by 28 percent, according to N.C. Health News. The county dropped from having the 28th highest teen-pregnancy rate of N.C.'s 100 counties to the 48th.
The pregnancy rate for white teenagers in the county was 41.4 per 1,000 15-to-19-year-olds in 2012, down from 52.5 in 2010. The Latina teen-pregnancy rate was 64.3 per 1,000 in 2012 for the same age category, compared with 73.3 in 2010. For black teenagers aged 15 to 19 years old, the 2012 rate was 40.4 per 1,000, compared with 84 in 2010.
Roshini Amarasinghe, a junior at Forestview High School in Gastonia, helped design the center.
High school students serve on a Teen Action Council, of which Amarasinghe is a member, that launched in May 2011. Along with health department staff and clinicians, interior designers and community members, teens on the council helped plan the center before it opened and gave tours once it did. The group also selected the colors; chose the name; and helped design the logo, fliers and other promotional materials.
There are also now three satellite centers in the county.
Learn more about the center and its initiatives here.