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Effort Seeks To Reduce Teenage Hispanic Birth Rate

Armen Hareyan's picture

Although teenage pregnancy rates across the nation generally are on the decline, "they remain stubbornly high"among blacks and Hispanics, Newsweek reports.

According to the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy,51% of Hispanics become pregnant at least once before age 20 --20percentage points higher than the national average. While black teenagers have a higher pregnancy rate (58%), that rate declined by about 29% during the 1990s. At the same time, the rate for Hispanic teens declined by only about 19%, Newsweek reports.

The reason for the disparity, in part, is because educational and prevention programs targeting Hispanics have not been culturally appropriate, according to Bill Albert and Ruthie Flores of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy's Latino Initiative.Until recently, the difference between general pregnancy prevention programs and ones targeting Hispanic youth is that the latter were available in Spanish, Liany Arroyo of the National Council of La Raza's Institute for Hispanic Health said. However, Arroyo said that "in order to ensure that all groups are able to access the critical health messages being delivered, we do need to acknowledge that there may be cultural, as well as access barriers."

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For example, "one of the most important cultural differences involves gender," Newsweek reports. According to Newsweek,"teenage daughters receive messages about chastity and demureness,[while] teenage sons hear about virility and conquest." In addition,gender roles sometimes lead to contraception not being discussed, Newsweek reports.

Hispanic teenagers also might interpret traditional pregnancy prevention messages as "anti-baby" or anti-family," when the message simply recommends that teenagers do not have children, Albert said. Hispanic culture embraces and encourages a family unit, Newsweek reports. A more effective message targeting Hispanic teens would "need to make clear that it's a matter of sequencing," Albert said. "The message isn't, 'Don't have children.' It's, 'Don't have children when you're seventeen,'" he added.

The Latino Initiative created a manual that "emphasizes that Latino teens straddle two worlds and that they need to learn to navigate between them." The manual -- which will be distributed to schools, community centers and health clinics across the nation in November -- also talks about the importance of traditional Hispanic values, including family-centeredness, affection and respect (Newsweek, 10/30).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, search the archives. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. 2007 Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.