LATINO TEEN PREGNANCY: Report Identifies Factors and Offers Solutions
Even as the number of Latino teenagers giving birth creeps upward compared to other populations, teen pregnancy prevention programs often overlook this group and focus instead on white and African- American youths, according to a report released Wednesday by the Child Welfare League of America and the National Council of Latino Executives. "First Talk: A Teen Pregnancy Prevention Dialogue Among Latinos" is a "groundbreaking report" that delves into factors that contribute to the high rate of teen pregnancy in this population, including young age for first sexual activity, early marriage, and poverty. According to the report, the Latino birth rate for teens age 15 to 19 in 1997 was 99.1 per 1,000, compared with 36.4 per 1,000 white teens and 89.5 per 1,000 African-American teens. "First Talk" identifies the implications of rising childbirth and population rates in the Latino community, pointing to the consequences of not "planning appropriate and responsive preventive programs" specific to Latino youth. "[A]pproaches to teen pregnancy prevention have not traditionally focused on Latino youth. They were designed without input from the Latino community and most are aimed at white and African-American teenagers," said Elba Montalvo, chair of the Council of Latino Executives. Included in the report are several recommendations for Latino teen pregnancy prevention:
- The HHS should collaborate with states to fund sex education programs in the Latino community. In addition, adults in the Latino community should be recruited as educators to discuss sexuality and family planning with their adolescent children.
- The HHS should improve its data collection system so that it includes information about the effectiveness of sex education programs among Latino youth. Community programs could draw on a such a database to tailor their prevention messages for Latino youth.
- The Justice Department should study the connection between teen pregnancy and the enforcement of statutory rape laws.
- The pregnancy prevention programs should include the input of Latino youth and youth focus groups should be an integral component of any program (CWLA release, 4/21).