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Working To Keep Teen Pregnancy Rates Falling

The rate is coming down but is still too high, especially in cities

Hartford Courant Editorial

January 18, 2013

There was, let us recall, some good news in the past year, and near the top of the list was the decline in teen pregnancy.

In 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the teenage birth rate reached a historic low of 31.3 births per 1,000 teens aged 15-19 years, a drop of 8 percent from 2010. While CDC officials aren't certain why the numbers are falling, they say teens seem to be less sexually active, and that more of those who are sexually active seem to be using birth control.

Connecticut's numbers are among the lowest in the country, with 18.9 births per 1,000, according to the CDC. But though the numbers are improving, teen pregnancy remains a stubborn problem in our cities. Though it is lower than it was, Hartford's rate of 55 births per 1,000 teens is way above the state and national averages, with the problem particularly acute in the Latino community.

So the problem remains very serious. Teen pregnancy is bad for the mother, who is likely to drop out of school; bad for the child, who is at risk of poor grades, dropping out, having health problems and ending up in jail; and bad for society. In 2008, according to the CDC, teen pregnancy and childbirth accounted for nearly $11 billion per year in costs to U.S. taxpayers for increased health care and foster care, increased incarceration rates among children of teen parents, and lost tax revenue because of lower educational attainment and income among teen mothers.

Hartford's efforts to combat teen pregnancy have been inconsistent in recent years. For decades the Hartford Action Plan ran excellent programs, notably one called Breaking The Cycle, and got impressive results. But funding issues began to haunt the agency. It was hanging by a thread in 2010 when the city got a $4.5 million grant over fuve years from the CDC to combat teen pregnancy. The Action Plan was supposed to be part of that effort, but for whatever reason some say personality clashes, others performance issues things didn't work out and the agency folded last summer.

But the city's Department of Health and Human Services is pushing ahead. The department has some programs underway and this month offered grants of up to $5,000 for local agencies to develop teen pregnancy prevention programs. "There's still a lot of work to do," said Dr. Raul Pino, the department head.

We urge Dr. Pino and other city officials to keep the problem on the proverbial front burner, to keep working with the schools, local clinics, youth and church groups and others who can effect change. Two models the city might look to:

Pathways/Senderos Center in New Britain, a neighborhood-based pregnancy prevention program for youngsters 10 to 18 years old. The center has 60 boys and girls enrolled at any time and has had only three pregnancies in nearly 19 years. The program encourages young women to be independent and self-sufficient, not to defer to boys and not to accept roles thrust upon them. Feminism, in other words.

The Milwaukee teen pregnancy prevention program. This features a massive public education campaign that has garnered national attention as well as parental involvement and a revamped sexual health curriculum in the schools. The ad on the sides of buses a bus featuring a picture of an adolescent boy with a large pregnant belly hanging over his belt has gotten considerable attention. That's the kind of imagination the problem so dearly needs; the Milwaukee program is on course to reduce teen pregnancy in the city by 46 percent by 2015.

Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant. To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at http://www.courant.com/archives.
| Last update: September 25, 2012 |
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