HHS Leaders Charge Communities to Continue Critical Efforts to Prevent Teen Pregnancy
By William H. Bentley, Associate Commissioner, Family and Youth Services Bureau, Administration for Children and Families
Wanda D. Barfield MD, MPH, CAPT, USPHS, Director, Division of Reproductive Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Evelyn Kappeler, Director, Office of Adolescent Health, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health
Susan B. Moskosky, MS, WHNP-BC, Acting Director, Office of Population Affairs
May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month
In recognition of May as National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month, leaders from the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) Family and Youth Services Bureau, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Office of Adolescent Health (OAH) and Office of Population Affairs (OPA) urge communities to continue working to prevent teen pregnancy and improve outcomes for expectant and parenting teens.
The U.S. teen birth rate is now at a record low. During the past 20 years, teen pregnancy rates have declined with more than a 50 percent reduction from 1991 to 2012. Although these numbers are the lowest in U.S. history, the costs associated with teen childbearing continue to be high not only for teens, but their parents, communities, and our nation as a whole.
In 2010, teen childbearing cost taxpayers $9.4 billion. Disparities in teen pregnancy and births remain across racial and ethnic groups as well as geographical regions. Non-Hispanic black and Hispanic teen girls are more than twice as likely to have a baby than non-Hispanic white teen girls. Asians and Pacific Islanders have consistently had the lowest teen birth rates while the rates for American Indians and Alaska Natives have been slightly higher than Non-Hispanic Whites. Geographically, more babies are born to teenagers in the South and Southwest than in the Northeast and Upper Midwest.
What is the federal government doing to prevent teen pregnancy?
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is dedicated to preventing teen pregnancy by investing in evidence-based and evidence-informed teen pregnancy prevention programs and youth-friendly family planning services.
- ACF’s Family and Youth Services Bureau Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Program takes a holistic approach to educating youth on pregnancy prevention by implementing evidence-based models, adulthood preparation subjects and other youth development programming that supports healthy transitions to adulthood while addressing risky behaviors.
- CDC is partnering with OAH and OPA to demonstrate the effectiveness of innovative, multicomponent, communitywide initiatives designed to reduce rates of teen pregnancy and births in communities with the highest rates.
- OAH’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program works with communities across the country to implement a broad range of evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs and develop new and innovative approaches to prevent teen pregnancy. OAH’s Pregnancy Assistance Fund provides expectant and parenting teens with a seamless network of supportive services to help them complete high school or postsecondary degrees and gain access to health care, child care, family housing, and other critical supports.
- OPA’s Title X national family planning program serves five million low income clients a year including more than one million teens. Title X funded clinics provide contraceptive services and education, STD and HIV testing and counseling, pregnancy testing and counseling and other preventive services in teen-friendly settings.
Call to Action
Despite the steady decline in teen birth rates, the U.S. rate is still the highest among industrialized countries. Teen mothers and their children also face challenges throughout their lives. About 50 percent of teen mothers get a high school diploma by age 22 compared to 89 percent who are not teen mothers. Teen mothers and their children are more likely to live in poverty with 67 percent of teen mothers who moved out of their own families’ household living below the poverty line. Also, children who are born to teen mothers tend to score significantly worse on measures of school readiness.
It is critical that we continue to work together to further reduce rates of teen pregnancy and existing disparities. Collectively, we encourage communities to:
- Implement evidence-based or evidence-informed teen pregnancy prevention programs
- Ensure sexual and reproductive health services are teen-friendly, culturally competent and readily available.
- Engage youth, parents, and community stakeholders in events and activities related to teen pregnancy prevention.
- Share information on the importance of preventing teen pregnancy through social media.
- Build partnerships with organizations who share the goal of reducing teen pregnancy and improving youth outcomes in your community.