Preventing teen pregnancy could save the United States about $9 Billion per year.Teen mothers face higher rates of preterm birth, and their kids have higher rates of low birth weight, and infant death. Teen mothers are more likely to drop out of high school and remain single parents.They’re more likely to be jailed at some time during adolescence until their early 30s, drop out of high school, give birth as a teenager, and be unemployed or underemployed as a young adult. Moreover, having a child during the teen years carries high costs —emotionally, physically, and financially—to the mother, child and community. Their kids tend to have lower grades and proficiency scores at kindergarten entry and are more likely to have behavior problems and chronic medical conditions; and they rely more heavily on publicly-provided health care (AHCCCS). All these things make teen pregnancy prevention a public health issue. Parents, educators, public health workers, doctors, and community organizations all have a role to play in reducing teen pregnancy.
There’s some good news. The rate of teen births has dropped by about 40% over the last 20 years in the US and there are additional steps we can take to continue this decline and help teens avoid pregnancy. Teens who participate in abstinence and prevention programs have shown progress in making healthier sexual decisions. These programs teach teens how to avoid situations that might lead to sex, to refuse it, and to wait until they’re older. CDC issued a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report and a Vital Signs report this month on the teen birth rate in the U.S.
Our Bureau of Women’s and Children’s Health has been working with community-based organizations for 13 years on teen pregnancy prevention strategies and will be able to expand those efforts using recent funding from the HHS’ Title V State Abstinence Program (our grant is about $1M). Until May 10th, the Department is accepting applications for the abstinence funding grants.