News: Teen birth rates continue downward trend

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Kathy Wick, Better Together Hennepin, 612-543-3020

Mike Opat, Hennepin County Board, 612-348-7881

Maria Elena Baca, Communications, 612-348-7865

Teen birth rates continue downward trend

Fewer teen girls in Hennepin County had children of their own in 2015; overall, 477 girls ages 15 to 19 gave birth, compared to 561 in 2014.

Hennepin County's 14.6 percent year-to-year decrease compares to an 11.6 percent decrease statewide. The data, released late last month, are the result of an analysis of birth certificates in Hennepin County. 

The numbers reflect a significant drop from 2007, when 1,170 babies were born to teen moms in the county. The statistics indicate several years of strong decreases that began to spread nationwide in 2008.

Decrease is no coincidence

Kathy Wick, manager of the county's teen pregnancy prevention program, Better Together Hennepin, said the continued decline is exciting but not incidental.

"This has been a long-term focus of Hennepin County, to arm youth to make informed decisions about their sexual health, and to assure access to reproductive health care and caring, approachable adults who can answer their questions and provide guidance," she said. "We are very targeted in our approach, making use of strong partnerships with community organizations that reach youth who are most at risk for teen pregnancy." 

However, some groups, including ethnic minorities, as well as those in foster care and in the corrections system, continue to experience higher numbers of teen births. 

The data reveals an 8-fold difference in teen birth rates between white, non-Hispanic and African-American teen birth rates and a 13-fold gap with Native American teens. The good news is that while the disparities in teen birth rates is significant, they have improved considerably over the past nine years as rates have declined overall. However, the persistence of racial and ethnic disparities, demonstrates a continued need for targeted resources. 

An investment in the future

Programs the county sponsors, using a combination of federal, state and county funding, include supports for evidence-based, comprehensive sexuality education in schools, targeted and specialized health care, positive youth development programming and communications training for parents to better prepare them as trusted sources of sexual health information for their teens. 

The picture is somewhat different at the city level. Particularly in smaller cities, with smaller populations of adolescents, a small change in the numbers can lead to a large change in the rates. For example, Robbinsdale's relatively low rate tends to fluctuate quite a bit from year to year; last year's 87 percent increase represented seven births. 

Wick said it is especially encouraging that the cities where Hennepin County programs have focused continue to show steady and sometimes dramatic declines. While the rate in Minneapolis declined only 13.3 percent, that still represents 36 fewer babies born to teen mothers in 2015 than in 2014, a year that also showed a decrease.

Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat, who has been supportive of the county’s work to prevent teen pregnancy, said that the work the county has done to help teenagers put off having children is an investment in the future – for teens and for taxpayers.

“The Hennepin County Board has long realized that teen pregnancies are devastating to all concerned," he said. "We have made prevention our priority and the work is paying off, but we have more to do. Outperforming the rest of the state is nice, but all indicators tell us that children born to adults who are ready to accept the awesome responsibility of being a parent are more likely to thrive.”

The financial side

Teenagers who do not become parents are less likely to live in poverty and rely on public assistance. In fact, more than half of all human services spending in Minnesota goes to families that began with a teen parent, costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars and multiples of that in lost potential for young people. Children born to adult mothers are at less risk for infant death, childhood health problems, cognitive and emotional delays, school struggles, a continued cycle of teen parenthood and multigenerational poverty. 

Hennepin County partners with a variety of schools, clinics, and non-profits, including the Annex Clinic, Family Partnership and NorthPoint Health & Wellness Center, which are implementing evidence-based programs in schools.

For more information, visit the Better Together Hennepin web page.

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