Adolescent pregnancy rates are decreasing, but significant disparities remain for certain groups

Black, Hispanic, Native American, homeless and other high-risk adolescents are vulnerable

Research Triangle Park— Overall adolescent pregnancy rates have decreased in recent years, but significant disparities remain as certain groups are particularly vulnerable and at risk for pregnancies. A new supplement, Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention in Underserved Populations: The Way Forward, published today in American Journal of Public Health- Volume 108, Issue S1, focuses on successful strategies and lessons learned for preventing adolescent pregnancy and highlights the significant disparities in the U.S. rates of adolescent pregnancy and other risk factors for Black, Hispanic, and Native American adolescents, as well as other high-risk groups, such as adolescents in foster care, those who have run away from home, or those who are homeless.

According to recent data, black and Hispanic teens are 2.5 and 2 times more likely, respectively, to experience a pregnancy than white teens.  It is also the case that youth in foster care are 2.5 times more likely to report that they have experienced a pregnancy compared to teens who are not in foster care. These disparities inevitably lead to significant societal costs to care for these young people and their children.

“We cannot ignore these statistics that point to the continuing problem of adolescent pregnancy in highly vulnerable groups of our youth,” said Barri Braddy Burrus, PhD, director of the Center for the Health of At-Risk Populations at RTI International, who served as guest editor for the supplement.   “As a society, the U.S. needs to continue to do more to help prevent adolescent pregnancy among the disadvantaged. Far too many youths are becoming parents before they themselves have a chance to grow up.”         

The new supplement shares data, experiences, and lessons learned from working with often difficult to reach, high-risk populations.  It contains 13 articles detailing the many challenging aspects of adolescent pregnancy and implementation strategies that have been found to be effective in addressing these challenges—presented from the perspectives of health care practitioners.

RTI’s work was funded by the Health and Human Services (HHS) Family and Youth Services Bureau’s APP Program which administers multiple prevention education programs across 159 grantees. RTI International, an independent, nonprofit research institute, provides ongoing training and technical assistance to the grantees conducting the teen pregnancy prevention activities as described in the supplement. The Institute has an extensive history of addressing adolescent pregnancy prevention.