Teen pregnancy prevention is one of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's top six priorities, a “winnable battle” in public health, and of high importance to health and quality of life for our youth.
According to the 2011 Community Health Assessment, teen pregnancy prevention is also a priority health concern to our Independence citizens.
The CDC states that although national statistics for teen pregnancy has declined, “approximately 400,000 teens aged 15-19 years give birth every year in the United States and the teen birth rate remains the highest in the developed world.”
According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, from 2006 to 2010, Independence rates for teen pregnancies were significantly higher than state and Eastern Jackson County rates.
In fact, to better understand the significance of teen pregnancy in our community, take a look at some more information and statistics provided by the CDC and MDHSS:
• From 2006 through 2010, 2,025 mothers had less than 12 years of education; this is a number representing a rate significantly higher than state and Eastern Jackson County rates. According to the CDC, “teen mothers are more likely to experience negative social outcomes, including school dropout,” and “only about 50 percent of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by age 22.”
• Data from MDHSS also shows that Independence has significantly higher rates in areas of repeat births to mothers under age 20, out-of-wedlock births and obesity.
To address this health issue, the Independence Health Department, along with other community partners, started the Independence Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition. This community-driven coalition is focused on raising awareness of these high rates in our community and educating parents and teens in order to reduce teen pregnancies.
We know that teens are influenced by their surroundings: peers, parents and the community (i.e. school, clubs, sports, churches); therefore, it is important for prevention education to take place at each of these levels. When this happens, teens can get full exposure in many facets of their lives of responsible behaviors and values.
Teen pregnancies can impact more than just the teen mothers or their children. “Each year, teen pregnancy and childbirth can account for about $11 billion 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.”
It is important to learn about these rates in our community and nation so that parents can actively participate in educating their teens. Communicating with youth about sex and pregnancy may seem difficult to do, but parents are the No. 1 influences on their children.
According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, parents who clearly communicate their values and expectations to their children along with expressing their concern or supervision over their child's selection of friends and role models are more likely to avoid a host of risky behaviors than parents who do not talk to their kids.
It is exciting for our coalition to come together and talk about our hopes and goals for our community while promoting healthy behaviors in the youth of Independence.
Keep an eye out this upcoming year for more information and events provided by the Independence Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition. If you have questions about the coalition, please call 816-325-7188.
Information is provided by the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy.
Larry Jones, MPH, is the director of the Independence Health Department.