Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Even as teen pregnancy rates have declined in Arizona and across the country over the past decade, the teen pregnancy rate among Latinas remains high

Yvonne Wingett:

Experts say messages about abstaining from sex or using contraceptives seem to be working among some teens, but getting through to Hispanic teens is still a challenge.

Cultural and religious reasons, Arizona's high proportion of immigrants, poverty, and poor education about sex and birth control are partly to blame, experts say. Community groups don't have enough Spanish-speaking counselors or educators to keep up with the need.

The Latina pregnancy rate has gone down slightly in recent years, but not as significantly as the rate among Anglos. That has left a growing divide, especially as the Hispanic population has soared. In 2005, more Latina teens got pregnant than all other racial and ethnic groups combined, according to a new report from the state Department of Health Services.

Latina teens are 3 1/2 times more likely than Anglo teens to become pregnant in Arizona and are about one-third more likely to get pregnant than Hispanics nationwide.

This has helped keep Arizona's teen pregnancy rate one of the highest in the nation. And Arizona taxpayers are increasingly picking up the tab: 82 percent of all teen births in 2005 were paid for by the state's Medicaid program, up from 71 percent a decade earlier. The National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy estimates that Arizona taxpayers spent $268 million in 2004 for costs related to teen pregnancy, ranging from health care to welfare to lost income taxes.

"We still have 14,000 kids who are parents, who really aren't ready to be parents, and that affects their lives and their children's lives," said Sue Gerard, director of the state health department. "We need to do more to prevent this from occurring and specifically in the Hispanic community."

The pregnancy rate among the youngest teens, 14 and under, remains low. But for ages 15-17, about one in 14 Latinas gets pregnant each year in Arizona. That compares with about one in 67 non-Hispanic White girls of that age.

More than 7,700 Arizona Latinas 10 to 19 years old got pregnant in 2005, up from 5,900 a decade ago. Latinas make up about one-third of all females 10 to 19 but account for 56 percent of all pregnancies among that age group.

Generally, pregnancy rates tend to be higher among the poor, and that means higher rates among minority groups. In Arizona, the pregnancy rate remains high among Blacks and has increased slightly in recent years among Native Americans, but both groups' rates remain lower than Hispanics.

Teen Pregnancy Rate Among Hispanics in Arizona Remains High


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