Teen Pregnancy: Part I by Karen Matthews
I want to commend Gov. Phil Bryant for making a priority the issue of teenage pregnancy. Mississippi has the highest teen birth rate and one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the United States. The large majority of these teen births (83.5%) are unintended. Teen pregnancy should be avoided for a number of reasons. Teen mothers are less likely to complete high school; only one-third receive a high school diploma. The children of teen mothers have lower birth weights, are more likely to perform poorly in school, and are at a greater risk of abuse and neglect, and sons of teen mothers are 13% more likely to end up in prison, while teen daughters are 22% more likely to become teen mothers themselves. These factors translate to reduced education opportunity, higher health care costs, and challenges to economic development. One estimate of the 7,078 teen births in 2009 in Mississippi cost taxpayers $154,895,580. These are all reasons why reducing teenage pregnancy should be on every public policy maker’s agenda. On Thursday, I’ll talk about what Delta Health Alliance is doing.