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CHINATOWN : Helping to Prevent Youth Pregnancies

June 13, 1993|IRIS YOKOI

Four social service centers have begun offering the first teen-age pregnancy prevention program targeted specifically at Asian-American and Pacific Islander youths.

The Asian Pacific Health Care Venture, the Chinatown Service Center, the Koryo Health Foundation and T.H.E. Clinic/Asian Health Project use lessons and materials provided by the statewide Education Now and Babies Later, or ENABL, project to teach teen-agers to postpone sex and to break down the denial within the Asian-American community that teen-age pregnancy is an issue.

Nearly 3,000 Asian-American and Pacific Islander teen-agers gave birth last year in Los Angeles County, according to statistics provided by the Asian Pacific Health Care Venture. However, the health officials said, the statistics do not include abortions, miscarriages or babies born outside the county.

Because of cultural and religious mores that look disdainfully at unwed mothers and sex before marriage, many Asian-American youths are uninformed because they are unable to talk to their parents about sex, health officials said.

The four local agencies received a total of $100,000 from the state Office of Family Planning, which administers ENABL, to implement the program. Organizers hope to reach 3,600 youths and 600 parents over the next year.

The program targets 12- to 14-year-olds in the Korean-American, Chinese-American, Filipino-American and Tongan-American communities.

Using ENABL's Postponing Sexual Involvement curriculum, the educators meet with the youths for five one-hour sessions. During the first session, the risks of early sexual activity are discussed. The second session deals with understanding and resisting social pressures, including media images.

The third hour focuses on understanding peer pressure. The fourth session teaches the teen-agers nonverbal and verbal assertiveness techniques. All the lessons are reinforced through role-playing during the fifth session.

In addition, a parent education program is offered. "Giving the kids the direct education is not enough," said Lisa Hasegawa, ENABL project coordinator at the Asian Pacific Health Care Venture. "If they are going to get slapped in the face (by parents) for asking questions about sex . . . it will produce a negative response and more reluctance on the part of the kids to address the issue."

Organizers adjusted the curriculum to take into account cultural differences and to fit the needs of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, Hasegawa said. For instance, educators don't automatically tell the students to "go talk to your parents about this," but they also try to teach the youths to understand their parents' position.

A group of ninth-graders who went through a similar program at Millikan Junior High School in Sherman Oaks, where students from Chinatown and Central Los Angeles are bused, said such programs help youths deal with issues they often cannot discuss at home.

"This helps me because I'm not going to be able to talk about this with my parents," Kathleen Chau of Chinatown said.

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