Teen Birth Rates Highest in Poorest Neighborhoods
According to Sandra Flores, program director for Fresno County’s Preterm Birth Initiative (PTBi.), poor communities of color “are bearing the burden” of a slew of health issues and the disparities related to the reproductive health of the city’s youth are contributing to stalling education and to cyclical poverty. Flores states,
We really have to start having these conversations around equity, and understand that when we continue to ignore or marginalize those communities, we collectively suffer. Nobody goes unaffected by these kind of rates … All of these teen moms having babies right now, they’re filling kindergarten classrooms in five years. We can’t look at this issue in isolation.
Surprisingly, six of the 10 California counties with the highest teen birth rates are in the Central Valley, which also is home to the state’s highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases. Even though a new state law mandates comprehensive sex education, requiring schools to teach about pregnancy and STD prevention, health experts believe it will take more than that to fix the region’s teen birth rates. Mara Decker, a researcher at the University of California, San Francisco who specializes in adolescent sexual and reproductive health, along with Sandra Flores and John Capitman, executive director of the Central Valley Health Policy Institute, point to a surprisingly simple solution for curbing teen birth and STD rates: after-school activities. Decker believes there’s no single answer to explain the local health disparities, but providing structure to teens in needy neighborhoods is a start at lessening it. Hopefully more funding can be provided to help with after-school programs and sex education to try and curb teen birth rates and STDs.