Teen Birth Rate, Infant Mortality Rate Improved

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There were 41 births for every 1,000 girls and women ages 15 to 19in the U.S. in 2004, continuing a decline in teen birth rates acrossthe country since at least 1990, according to the 2007 Kids Count report compiled by the Annie E. Casey Foundation and released on Wednesday, the Houston Chronicle reports (Markley, Houston Chronicle, 7/25). The 2006 Kids Count report found that the national teen birth rate in 2003 was 42 births per 1,000 women and girls.

Theannual report measures each state in terms of 10 statistics, includinginfant mortality, teen birth rate and infants born with lowbirthweights (Kaiser Daily Women's Health Policy Report, 6/28). The report found the highest-ranking state for children overall is Minnesota and the lowest is Mississippi, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Giordano, Philadelphia Inquirer, 7/25).

Thereport found that the percentage of infants who were born weighing lessthan 5.5 pounds increased from 7.9% in 2003 to 8.1% in 2004. The infantmortality rate decreased from 6.9 deaths of infants under one year oldper 1,000 live births in 2003 to 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births in2004 (2007 Kids Count, 7/25). Laura Beavers, a research associate atthe foundation, said, "While well-being indicators have largely gottenbetter for teens, they've gotten worse for babies." She added, "We alsosee persistent disparities in outcomes for children of color,particularly African-Americans" (Annie E. Casey Foundation release, 7/25).

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Texas Teen Birth Rate

Texas' teen birth rate of 63 births per 1,000 girls and women ages 15 to 19 was the highest in the nation in 2004, the Chroniclereports. New Mexico and Mississippi tied Texas for the highest teenbirth rate in 2003, but rates in those states declined in 2004, whileTexas' rate remained the same. According to the report, black teens inTexas are more than twice as likely to have an infant, compared withtheir white peers. Hispanics in the state are more than 3.5 times aslikely as whites to give birth in their teen years, the Chronicle reports.

Robert Sanborn, president of Children at Risk,said ethnicity does not explain the increase in the teen birth ratecompletely because other states with high minority populations havelower rates. He added that he is concerned the state's sex educationcurriculum focuses too much on abstinence and does not provide enoughinformation on other methods to prevent pregnancy. "We can preachabstinence quite a bit, and there is nothing wrong with that, but itdoesn't affect some kids, and apparently, it's really not working inTexas," Sanborn said,

Texas Board of Education President DonMcLeroy said the state emphasizes teaching abstinence education butadded that the law also requires each district to have a localcommittee that decides what will be taught. "The idea that just givingthem a lot of information is going to solve [the increased teen birthrate] ... is kind of naive," McLeroy said, adding, "Certainly, it'smore of a societal problem than it is a school problem" (Houston Chronicle, 7/25).
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Reprinted with permission fromkaisernetwork.org.You can view the entire KaiserWeekly Health Disparities Report, search the archives,and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Weekly Health Disparities Report is published forkaisernetwork.org,a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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