Despite the recent decline in the teen birth rates, teen pregnancy remains a significant problem in this country. It is a problem that impacts nearly every community. Thus, the responsibility to solve this problem lies with all of us, including families, communities, and young people themselves.
The President and Congress called on HHS to develop a National Strategy to address this serious challenge and to assure that at least 25 percent of communities in this country have teen pregnancy prevention programs in place--as mandated under the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996. The Department responded to this call by releasing a National Strategy to Prevent Teen Pregnancy in January of 1997. This Strategy presented a comprehensive new plan to prevent teen pregnancies in the United States by strengthening, integrating, and supporting teen pregnancy prevention and other youth-related activities in communities across this country.
The Department is required by this law to report to the Congress by June 30th of each year on progress made with the Strategy. This represents our first Report to the Congress on the National Strategy to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. In this document, we also report that in FY 1997, HHS funded teen pregnancy prevention programs in at least 31% of the communities in the country. This is a conservative number as it only includes HHS funds that flow directly to the communities.
Good News. Statistics and data demonstrate some encouraging trends:
- From 1991 through 1996, HHS reported that teen birth rates declined for white, black, American Indian, Asian or Pacific Islander and Hispanic women ages 15-19.
- The birth rate for black teens demonstrated the largest decline-down a fifth from 1991 to 1996-reaching the lowest birth rate ever reported for blacks.
- Teen birth rates have decreased in every state.
- The teen pregnancy rate has also declined by 8 percent from 1991 to 1994.
Our Charge and the Work Ahead. While these data indicate that concerted efforts to reduce teen pregnancy may be succeeding, we still have a long way to go. The Federal government, the private sector, parents and other caring adults are all helping send the same message:
Don't become a parent until you are truly ready to support a child.
Key Principles. In implementing this National Strategy, we have adhered to and advanced the five principles highlighted in the January 1997 report. According to research and experience, these five principles are essential to community efforts.
The Five Principles
- Parents and other adult mentors must play key roles in encouraging young adults to avoid early pregnancy and to stay in school.
- Abstinence and personal responsibility must be the primary messages of prevention programs.
- 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.
- 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.
- Real success requires a sustained commitment to the young person over a long period of time.
Reporting Our Progress. We hope that this annual report-and those that follow-will provide useful information on the efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services. We also hope to complement the efforts of others, such as those of the non-profit National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, individual states and communities, foundations, other non-governmental entities, parents, youth, and other caring adults.