Teen pregnancy is a key public health indicator because of the profound negative health outcomes related to a lack of education and economic opportunity. For example, only about 50% of teen mothers receive a high school diploma versus approximately 90% of their peers. The disadvantages caused by a teen pregnancy can last a lifetime- and even spill over to the next generation. Teen pregnancy is expensive too- costing about $11B per year in increased health care, foster care, incarceration, and lost tax revenue. That’s why we’ve made reducing teen pregnancy in AZ a key element in our strategic map.
Today’s good news is that teen pregnancy made a historic drop over the last 3 years in AZ. In fact, teen pregnancy dropped by almost 30% in AZ over the last 3 years- the steepest decline in the nation.
How did we get here? As is the case with most things in public health- our success is tied to a host of interventions and circumstances. No doubt our community-based contracts under the Personal Responsibility Education Program is a factor along with our federal Abstinence Education contracts. The study that was published today shows that teens are becoming more educated about how to effectively prevent teen pregnancies and are using that info. Another factor is probably the economy. There’s a well known link between lower pregnancy rates in general and challenging economic times.
The bottom line is that the trend toward lower teen pregnancy rates in AZ and the US is encouraging- but we need to do even better by using tried and true evidence-based practices to keep up the pressure on this important health indicator.