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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Births by teenage mothers have hit a record low in California, health officials said on Monday, crediting a "comprehensive" public education campaign that does not stress only abstinence.
California's teenage birth rate for 2008, the most recent year for which the state has complete statistics, was 35.2 births for every 1,000 girls aged 15 to 19, the California Department of Public Health said.
That is down from 2007, when California's teenage birth rate was 37.1, and the lowest since the state started keeping records in the early 1970s.
The Department of Public Health said the drop in teenage births between 2007 and 2008 saved the state $98 million.
Health officials say teenage motherhood gives rise to a number of societal costs because the mothers lack the financial resources to raise a child.
The national teen birth rate was 42.5 in 2007, the latest time frame for which the U.S. Centers for Disease Control has released statistics, and has risen two years in a row since hitting a low of 40.5 in 2005.
"California has consistently included abstinence education in its approach but that has not been the sole strategy that the state has employed," said Ken August, a spokesman for the state's public health department.
"In addition we have also encouraged that information be provided to teens that promotes responsible behavior, whether they are sexually active or not," he said. "Other states have not taken a comprehensive approach. They've focused more on abstinence."
California, which once had a teenage birth rate higher than the national average, has seen that number decline steadily since 1991 when it was 70.9.
Editing by Jill Serjeant and Eric Walsh