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Teen births on decline, but younger and non-white teens still at risk

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Teen pregnancies have declined by a whopping 63 percent nationally over the last two decades. But health officials say more still needs to be done to prevent higher-risk younger teens from getting pregnant.

And girls of color are much more likely than white girls to get pregnant in their teens, according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

The report found girls between the ages of 15 and 17 still account for one out of four teen births. That’s about 1,700 births each week.

“Although we have made significant progress reducing teen pregnancy, far too many teens are still having babies,” says CDC Director Tom Frieden. “Births to younger teens pose the greatest risk of poor medical, social and economic outcomes.”

Teen moms – and dads – are less likely to complete high school or college. And children born to teen mothers are more likely to have chronic medical problems and behavior problems, and they're less prepared for kindergarten.

The CDC says delaying sexual activity, increased education and boosting the use of effective contraception methods can help keep teenagers who are already sexually active from getting pregnant.

Information on Minnesota’s statewide teen pregnancy rate 

For the CDC report, researchers analyzed birth data from the National Vital Statistics System and adolescent health behavior data from the National Survey of Family Growth.

They found that more than 80 percent of teenage girls ages 15 to 17 – nearly 1 in 4 – never talked with their parents or guardians about sex, and had not received any formal sexual education before having sex for the first time.

The overwhelming majority of sexually active teenagers reported using some form of contraception the last time they had sex, though officials say most of them relied on methods that are among the least effective.

Despite the dramatic overall drop in teen pregnancy, the CDC study found wide racial and ethnic disparities in the data, which is from 2012:

The birth rate for non-Hispanic white teens was 8 percent. Hispanics had a birth rate of more than 25 percent. Non-Hispanic blacks: almost 22 percent. The birth rate for American Indian/Alaska Natives was 17 percent.

The CDC emphasized the need to develop initiatives that deal with racial and ethnic disparities in teenage pregnancy rates that include culturally appropriate interventions and services.

And parents need to get involved, they say.

"We're advising adults and relatives to speak with the youngsters at an early age about making decisions on personal and sexual relationships and the use of contraceptives to prevent these pregnancies," the CDC's Carla Galindo told FOX News Latino.

Many other studies have shown that certain life circumstances can increase a girl’s chances of getting pregnant in her teens.

These include growing up in poverty, having parents with low levels of education, growing up in a single parent household and poor school performance.

Here are some other startling statistics about teen pregnancy compiled by the federal government’s Interagency Working Group on Youth Programs:

• By age 22, only around 50 percent of teen mothers have received a high school diploma and only 30 percent have earned a General Education Development (GED) certificate, whereas 90 percent of women who did not give birth during adolescence receive a high school diploma.
• Only about 10 percent of teen mothers complete a two- or four-year college program.
• Teen fathers have a 25 to 30 percent lower probability of graduating from high school than teenage boys who are not fathers.

Children who are born to teen mothers also experience a wide range of problems:

• have a higher risk for low birth weight and infant mortality;
• have lower levels of emotional support and cognitive stimulation;
• have fewer skills and be less prepared to learn when they enter kindergarten;
• have behavioral problems and chronic medical conditions;
• rely more heavily on publicly funded health care;
• have higher rates of foster care placement;
• be incarcerated at some time during adolescence;
• have lower school achievement and drop out of high school;
• give birth as a teen; and
• be unemployed or underemployed as a young adult.

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