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Friday, September 20, 2013 - 8:48am
(CNN) — It's like sexting, but with benefits.
New Mexico teens have an alternative to their parents when it comes to sexual health questions. And it comes in a form they're familiar with: text messaging.
Appropriately named "BrdsNBz, the service launched this month allows teens to text sexual health questions to a hotline. Within 24 hours, a health expert will text back a private, nonjudgmental response.
"Talking about the birds and the bees -- sexual health -- is almost always awkward for parents, teens and sometimes both of us," state health officials say.
The service, available in Spanish and English, targets teens between ages 13 and 19.
New Mexico is among the top three nationally in teen birth rates, said Valerie Fisher with the state health department.
"I have an 11-year-old. I try to explain things to him, and he's like, 'Mommmm, stop!' so I understand," Fisher said. "This is a great tool. It educates teens, they learn some things maybe they didn't know and it even helps them ask their parents better questions."
Although teenage pregnancy rates in the U.S. are at historic lows, they are substantially higher than other Western countries.
"Teen birth rates fell at least 15% for all but two states during 2007--2011--- the most recent period of sustained decline," the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
The pregnancy rate for girls ages 15-19 dropped to 31.3 per 1,000 in 2011, a record low for the United States.
But experts say the drop does not mean the issue is no longer a priority.
Other states offer similar services for teens.
North Carolina launched a similar BrdsNBz program in 2009. California has its own service, HookUp 365247, which is loosely based on the same concept. It provides teens who text the number with weekly sexual health tips and the nearest reproductive health clinics.
In New Mexico, parents can text their questions as well.