March 3, 2013Teen Pregnancy Rate Fell 27 Percent in Last Decade While Contraception Use Increased
Campaign Conveying Consequences of Teen Pregnancy will Feature Subway and Bus Ads, Texting, Social Media and Public Service Announcement Video. View the campaign here.
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services Linda I. Gibbs and Human Resources Administration Commissioner Robert Doar today announced a new citywide public information campaign aimed at further reducing teen pregnancy. While recent Department of Health and Mental Hygiene data revealed that the city’s teen pregnancy rate fell 27 percent in the last decade, there are still more than 20,000 teen pregnancies annually, 87 percent of which are unintended and mostly involve unmarried partners. Decades of research show that children born to young, unmarried parents are more likely to be poor, have emotional and behavioral problems and are less likely to do well in school. Additionally, teen fathers are less likely to be involved with their children, which can have long-term negative effects on the children. The campaign, which launches March 4th, will feature subway and bus shelter ads in all five boroughs; an interactive texting program featuring facts, games and quizzes; and a YouTube video engaging teens on the subject. The Mayor made the announcement on his Sunday weekly radio address.
“This campaign makes very clear to young people that there’s a lot at stake when it comes to deciding to raise a child,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “We’ve already seen important progress in our effort to help more teens delay pregnancy – teen pregnancy has steadily declined in New York City – but there is more work still to be done. We aim to build on our success by asking teens to take an honest look at some of the realities of parenthood they may not have considered. By focusing on responsibility and the importance of education, employment, and family in providing children with the emotional and financial support they need, we’ll let thousands of young New Yorkers know that waiting to becoming a parent could be the best decision they ever make.”
“We know that teens can be impulsive, and some impulsive behaviors can have greater consequences than others,” said Deputy Mayor Gibbs. “Unprotected sex, which can lead to teen pregnancy, is one of those behaviors and this campaign is designed to help teens think through the real-life costs of teen pregnancy and guide them toward healthier decisions.”
“Teens giving birth before they are ready to provide emotional and financial support is not a good way to raise children,” said HRA Commissioner Robert Doar. “We cannot dictate how people live their lives, and sometimes even the best plans don’t work out, but we must encourage responsibility and send the right message, especially to young people.”
New York City’s pregnancy rate for girls was 72.6 pregnancies per 1,000 girls in 2010; a decrease from recent years but still higher than the national rate. Teen mothers and fathers are both more likely to drop out of high school, and their children are less likely to finish school and go to college as well. Daughters of teen parents are more likely to become teen mothers themselves, while sons are more likely to go to prison. On the other hand, parents who finish high school, find full time work and get married before having children have a 98 percent chance of not living in poverty.
The campaign's serious messages reflect recent discourse on the issues of fatherhood, nonmarital births, marriage and poverty. President Barack Obama, in a speech last month, highlighted the importance of children growing up with two parents teaching them responsibility for a better future. The Brookings Institution has also stated that “reducing nonmarital births and mitigating their consequences should be a top priority of the nation’s social policy.”
But despite the consequences of teen pregnancy, studies have shown that almost 50 percent of teens have never considered how a pregnancy would affect their lives. HRA’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention campaign, which aims to increase awareness of the consequences of early pregnancy, feature photos of babies, confronting the viewer with strong facts about the challenges teen parents face (some examples: “Honestly, mom… chances are he won’t stay with you. What happens to me?” and “Dad, you’ll be paying to support me for the next 20 years.”) Addressing the issue from both an economic and social perspective, the message focuses on responsibility and the impact employment, family, education and the emotional and financial support of both parents have on a child’s well-being. The campaign can be viewed by using the search term HRA Teen Pregnancy at nyc.gov
The print ads will encourage interested viewers to text ‘NOTNOW’ to short code 877877 to opt in to the texting portion of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention campaign. Texting is a fast, effecting and low-cost way of getting information to teens.
The campaign’s texts, developed by HRA in partnership with digital cause strategy company Whole Whale using mobile technology company Mobile Commons’ platform, will feature facts on the hard realities of teen parenthood and the benefits of delaying pregnancy, along with games and quizzes where participants can simulate the choices facing teen parents and test what they have learned. The final component of the campaign is a video PSA to be released on YouTube in late March, and features a baby “confronting” young teens on the cost of taking care of a child.
The statistics behind the message come from studies released by the Guttmacher Institute, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies and other peer-reviewed research on the subject.
HRA currently provides several programs related to teen pregnancy prevention:
No Kidding: Straight Talk from Teen Parents is a peer education program that brings real teen parents to NYC schools to discuss their experiences, the difficulties of being a teen parent, and why it’s better to wait. No Kidding includes material on the challenges of teen parenthood, child support and fatherhood, money matters and what makes a healthy relationship. An evaluation of the program has shown positive effects in increasing knowledge of the consequences of teen pregnancy, and improving attitudes on the importance of responsibility and waiting to have a child. Currently available to 24 New York City schools in the Chancellor’s District, the program is available at no cost. No Kidding is part of HRA’s Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE), which ensures children receive the financial support from both parents. No Kidding also serves summer youth programs, Division for Youth and Family Service’s justice centers and community based organizations. In 2012, HRA collected three quarters of a billion dollars in child support on behalf of NYC’s children. OCSE refers noncustodial parents who cannot meet their obligations to employment programs and other services.
The Family Planning Benefit Program (FPBP) by HRA’s Office of Citywide Health Insurance Access (OCHIA) is a free and confidential state-run healthcare program which provides coverage of reproductive and sexual health care; such as all forms of contraceptives, STI screenings and pregnancy tests; to teens and adults who meet the program’s income requirements.
The Relationship Abuse Prevention Program (RAPP), operated by HRA’s Office of Domestic Violence and Emergency Intervention Services (ODVEIS), is a school-based program to help teens recognize healthy relationships and foster a safe and productive learning environment. RAPP, which is in 50 high schools and seven middle schools citywide, includes material on the risks and consequences of teen pregnancy and avoiding reproductive coercion and peer pressure. RAPP encourages participants to envision a future of opportunities and make healthy choices.
The City’s Health Department and HRA are working in partnership in the Bronx:
Bronx Teens Connection is a CDC-funded initiative administered by DOHMH in two South Bronx communities (Hunts Point and Morrisania). HRA and DOHMH’s Bureau of Maternal, Infant, and Reproductive Health are working with local public schools and a range of community providers and organizations to integrate services, programs and strategies to reduce teen birth rates. A key goal of the initiative is to accelerate classroom instruction on sexual and reproductive health through an evidence based curriculum, “Reducing the Risk,” among 9th graders in 27 high schools and integrate this instruction with on-site and community-based sexual and reproductive health services.
Additionally, the City’s Health Department has long been implementing a comprehensive strategy to prevent teen pregnancy:
The School-based Health Center Reproductive Health Project partners with 40 public high school school-based health centers (SBHCs) to provide quality reproductive health services which includes contraceptive dispensing on-site. SBHCs serve about 25 percent of public high school students.
The CATCH Program provides services in another 13 public high schools. Staffed by school health nurses and physicians, CATCH provides sexual health information, pregnancy tests, emergency contraception, oral contraception, and confidential referrals.
Resources for Teens, Parents, and Health Care Providers
Contraception remains the most successful method to prevent unwanted pregnancies for sexually active indviduals. Teens or their parents can call 311 to find out how to get free or low-cost birth control, locate confidential health services at community clinics and learn about parenting support services. Under New York State Law, a minor has the right to obtain confidential reproductive health care including birth control, without the consent of a parent or guardian. While young people should be encouraged to talk with their parent or another trusted adult, not all young people can or will do this.
Free copies of the Teens in NYC print guide and other publications such as How to Prevent Pregnancy and Sexually Transmitted Infections Health Bulletin can also be ordered via 311 or accessed online at nyc.gov.
Health care providers can use the search term Adolescent Sexual Health at nyc.gov to access resources for providing quality reproductive health services for adolescents including the Best Practices in Sexual and Reproductive Health Care for Adolescents and the Quick Guide to Contraception. The portal will also provide information on training and educational opportunities, best clinical practices toolkit (also available on DOHMH website), clinical updates, and eventually a list-serve for providers to communicate with each other.
Marc La Vorgna / Samantha Levine
Connie Ress / Carmen Boon (HRA)