Let's Talk about Sex; the UK Has the Highest Teenage Pregnancy Rate in Europe and Recent Figures Show Teenage Girls in the North East Are Most Likely to Fall Pregnant. but What Is Being Done in the Region to Tackle the Issue? JOHN OWENS Reports

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SITTING on one of the funky black and green chairs, you could be forgiven for thinking you were in some kind of upmarket youth club.

In one corner, R'n'B superstar Ne-Yo is singing away on a widescreen TV. In another, paintings of glamorous people are hung on the walls.

But the leaflets - "21st century sex", "4 Boys", "4 Girls" - suggest important health messages are also being communicated. I'm in the youth section of the One to One Centre at Shiremoor.

As part of a sexual health service offered by North Tyneside Primary Care Trust, staff at the centre offer advice on everything from contraception to support for young parents.

Recent figures have suggested teenage girls in the North East are the most likely in England to fall pregnant, with 53 pregnancies per thousand girls aged 15 to 17.

However, in the last five years the figures have reduced.

This is due to those working at centres like this.

Anne Tierney is teenage pregnancy and adolescent sexual health coordinator for North Tyneside PCT, based at the One to One centre.

She described the types of work involved with teen pregnancy.

She said: "One is prevention in the first place and the other is support for those who are pregnant.

"There are various messages we want a teenager to know about. A key one is that delaying sexual activity is an option. If you talk to young people they think everyone around them is sexually active but the reality is most under 16s aren't.

"But if young people are going to be sexually active, it's vital they use contraception." Drop-in consultations allow trained staff to answer questions on everything a teenager might want to know about sex. There is also a Speak Easy programme to get parents talking to children.

A Teenage Support Team provides help for young parents and parents-to-be, and a young parent group runs at The Riverside Centre, North Shields, every Monday afternoon.

Anne feels these groups are a good place for teenagers to learn.

"It is a good way of offering peer support without which there is a potential they could become quite isolated - they have the same questions as any other parent." North Tyneside PCT has invested pounds 100,000 in sexual health services across the area.

For the One to One team in Shiremoor the cash means two new community outreach sexual health nurses for the area.

Jane Cook has been a sexual health specialist at the One to One Centre for 14 months and sees this approach as vital.

She said: "We've got links to community groups across the borough and a key part of it is not just to drop in and out of young people's lives - you have to let them know that you are there for them all the time." The One to One team have worked with Tyne Metropolitan College in a bid to make the most of the their IT know-how.

In the Youth Bytes project, a group of 12 graphics students have created a series of banners for their college's intranet system that highlight sexual health and contraception. The scheme is due to go online shortly.

Ryan Hunt, 17, has been spending around 15 hours a week working on his designs.

He said: "Jane Cook came in from the clinic and explained what it was she was looking for.

"My animation features a health cross which morphs into a male gender sign before turning into the female sign in a graffiti style. …


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