CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The overall teen birth rate in West Virginia remains high compared with most states, but the state chief health officer says the rate has dropped over the last two years.

“We’ve seen about a 15 percent decline,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta with the state Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau for Public Health.

According to a 2013-2014 report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the overall birth rate for white, black and Hispanic teenage females ages 15-19 in West Virginia was 38.3 for every 1,000 females compared with the national average of 25.

“There hasn’t been the type of emphasis on determinants of health that we’re placing now,” he said of the reason why the rate used to be so high. “There’s not a lot of focus on the importance on the teenage girls to finish high school, go to college or some other technical training, get a job.”

The rate has declined significantly over the last 25 years, Gupta said, because there’s been more education to teen girls in schools.

“(This is) so that they don’t suffer the same negative health economics and social consequences when they become mothers — not just for themselves, but also for their newborns,” he said.

Most teen births in West Virginia occur in the southern part of the state, according to the report. Gupta said that has a lot to do with the social and economic conditions as well as several other factors.

The state DHHR has been working with the state Department of Education and others to continue to provide educational opportunities to teenagers about life planning. Gupta said they’ve noticed families are also talking with their kids more.

“Families of today are having those conversations at the dinner table in their households that perhaps wasn’t happening 20-30 years ago,” he said.

The 2013-2014 report indicates Arkansas, Mississippi, New Mexico and Oklahoma had the highest teen birth rates, which were all over 40 per 1,000.  The lowest rates were in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New Jersey.

View the full report here.