A National Strategy to Prevent Teen Pregnancy: Annual Report 1999-2000. Introduction


In this 1999-2000 Annual Report, after three years of a National Strategy to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is pleased to report that teen pregnancy and birth rates in this country have declined to record low levels. Trends throughout the 1990s have shown a steady reduction in teen birth rates that is now significant for all 50 states. Rates have declined for all adolescent age groups, for all racial and ethnic groups, and for both first and second births to teens. Clearly we are reaping the benefits of this Administration's strong commitment to our National Strategy and renewed efforts by states, localities, private organizations, parents, and youth.

Although we have come far, we have a considerable distance still to go. U.S. teen pregnancy rates remain among the highest in the industrialized world, and birth rates for Hispanic and black teens continue to be substantially higher than those for non-Hispanic white and Asian or Pacific Island youth. We must remain steadfast in our intention to reduce teen pregnancy.

Yet, while we must not underestimate the need to continue our prevention efforts, the facts are enormously promising. For example:

  • Earlier Trends Reversed. By the end of 1999, a record low U.S. birth rate for teens aged 15-17 reversed the 27 percent increase in teen birth rates recorded in the 1980s.
  • Lowest Rate in Three Decades for Youngest Teens. The youngest group, aged 10-14, showed the lowest birth rates since 1967, as well as a sharp decline in number of births. The latter decline occurred despite the fact that the population of girls in this age group actually increased during this time period.
  • Black Teens Show Greatest Reductions. Throughout the 1990s, black teens have had the largest declines in teen childbearing rates of any group.

The Department issued the National Strategy to Prevent Teen Pregnancy in January 1997, in response to a call from the President and Congress to develop a comprehensive strategy to address the problem of adolescent pregnancy. The request was to demonstrate a cohesive approach to the challenges of teen pregnancy prevention, in general, and specifically, to provide assurance that at least 25 percent of communities in the United States have teen pregnancy prevention programs in operation. The latter requirement is mandated by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996.

The Strategy relies on some basic principles of teen pregnancy prevention, listed below, and on the support and integration of pregnancy prevention efforts with other positive youth development activities in local communities.

Key Principles. Five key principles shape and guide our National Strategy. Based on ideas shown by research and experience to be essential to all community prevention efforts, these key principles are the cornerstone of the Department's Strategy.



The Five Principles

  1. Parents and other adult mentors must play key roles in encouraging young adults to avoid early pregnancy and to stay in school.
  2. Abstinence and personal responsibility must be the primary messages of prevention programs.
  3. Young people must be given clear connections and pathways to college or jobs that give them hope and a reason to stay in school and avoid pregnancy.
  4. Public and private-sector partners throughout communities  including parents, schools, business, media, health and human service providers, and religious organizations  must work together to develop comprehensive strategies.
  5. Real success requires a sustained commitment to the young person over a long period of time.

Reporting Our Progress. This annual report is intended to provide information about the efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services to reduce teen pregnancy in the past year. Our previous reports are also available on the HHS website at: http://aspe.hhs.gov/hsp/hspyoung.htm#teenpreg

We also wish to recognize the efforts of others, such as the non-profit National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, individual states and communities, foundations, other non-governmental entities, parents, youth, and other caring adults.

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