By Jenna Leslie 
BELLEVILLE – The teen-pregnancy rate in this region is the seventh-highest in Ontario, board members of Hastings Prince Edward Public Health  were told Wednesday.
Hastings and Prince Edward counties rank No. 7 of 36 regions in the province for the rate of teenage pregnancy, teenage births and teenage abortions, the board heard.
Education, employment and income levels, as well as living conditions, contribute to the teen-pregnancy rate, according to a presentation by health-unit staffers Stephanie McFaul and Veronica Montgomery.
The child can also be at risk. In teen pregnancies there is a high chance of the child being born prematurely, and premature births can result in a number of other health issues, such as developmental problems, hearing and visual impairments and learning difficulties later on.
While the overall rate of teen pregnancies locally may be higher than Ontario’s average, there has been a continuing decline in recent years, McFaul and Montgomery said.
Tools like sex education and access to resources such as counselling and free or low-cost birth control have helped, they said.
“The more access (teenagers) can have to reputable information, the better,” McFaul said.
Hastings Prince Edward Public Health offers counselling, education, birth control, free testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections and free pregnancy testing, the presenters said.
They hope to be able to provide even more resources, and to work with teachers and parents on educating children and teens about healthy sexual living, they said.