Despite Declines, CDC Says Too Many Young Teens Having Babies

By: Ryan Jaslow, CBSNews.com Health Editor
By: Ryan Jaslow, CBSNews.com Health Editor

(CBS) - Despite record lows, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning that younger teens between ages 15 and 17 still account for one out of four teen births, or about 1,700 births each week -- and that number needs to be reduced.

"Births to younger teens pose the greatest risk of poor medical, social and economic outcomes," CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said in a statement.

But overall, rate of births per 1,000 teens aged 15 to 17 years declined 63 percent in past two decades from 38.6 in 1991 to 14.1 in 2012, the last year the CDC recorded data on teen births. In addition, nearly 75 percent of teens in this age range haven't had sex yet.

Then why sound the alarm in the CDC's Vital Signs journal, which looks at "critical publish health issues?"

"We cant afford to be complacent," Dr, Ileana Arias, principal deputy director for the CDC, told reporters Tuesday at a press conference. "We want to make sure lifting attention and efforts does not lead to a reversal in that success."

There are wide disparities in which young teens are giving birth, according to CDC.

The birth rate to younger teens was two to three times higher for Hispanic (25.5 per 1,000 teens 15-17), black (21.9 per 1,000) and American Indian/Alaska Native teens (17 per 1,000) compared to white teens between ages 15 to 17, according to the report.

Nearly 1 in 4 teens in this age group overall never spoke with their parents or guardians about sex, the CDC added, so most had that conversation about birth control or sex at one point.

But more than 80 percent of sexually-experienced female teens aged 15 to 17 did not receive formal sex education before their first sexual counter, which suggests more work needs to be done, the CDC said.

Teen boys should not be forgotten as well, said Arias, as they too can defer their education and futures by working to support the child.

The teen birth rates dramatically differed by states, from 6.2 per 1,000 teens aged 15-17 years in New Hampshire to 29.0 in the District of Columbia.

These may reflect differences in demographics, poverty rates, rates of sexual activity and differences in attitudes among teens in these areas, according to the CDC.

The CDC called for more educational programs to target teens, especially in communities and groups that are more affected.

The full report was also published April 8 in the CDC's journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

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