“We’ve made great progress since 2008:” Mayor Barrett releases 2014 teen birth rate data

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MILWAUKEE -- One year after setting a bold new goal to reduce births to teens by another 50 percent by 2023, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and officials with the city’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, led by United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, have released the city’s 2014 teen birth rates. There is a slight increase in Milwaukee's teen birth rate after years of decline -- but there's a positive in these statistics.

"We know that when you're committed to a long-term public health issue like teen pregnancy prevention, you`re going to have some of those years," Nicole Angresano, VP of community impact at United Way said.

According to data from the City of Milwaukee Health Department, the total number of births to teens aged 17 and under dropped below 300 for the first time in history. However, because there are fewer teens overall, the overall teen birth rate ticked upward slightly from 22.9 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 17 to 23.7 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 17.

"A very small increase -- something that we expect when we`re 10 years into an initiative like this, but we want it to go back down in the other direction," Angresano said.

The overall rate remains at its second lowest rate in recorded history.

Compared to 2006 baseline data, Milwaukee’s teen birth rate has seen a 54 percent decrease since establishing a community-wide effort around the issue.

"That`s a significant improvement and that`s something that is going to help this community for generations to come," Mayor Barrett said.

In 2014, the rate for non-Hispanic Black teens also dropped to a historic low of 27.0, while the rate for Hispanic teens increased to 25.5 and the rate for White teens increased to 9.2.

“Last year, we set a bold new goal to reduce teen births by another 50 percent by 2023,” said Mayor Tom Barrett. “We know this will take an incredible effort to reach this goal, and this new data proves just how difficult the work will be. Every partner in this effort must rededicate themselves. Our children and families in Milwaukee deserve nothing but our very best work.”

The new goal seeks to reduce the overall teen birth rate by another 50 percent while also decreasing the Hispanic and non-Hispanic Black rates by 50 percent, lowering the overall teen birth rate, as well as the rate for each racial and ethnic group, to below 15 per 1,000 for 15- to 17-year-old girls by 2023. The goal was set after the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative announced it had surpassed its original goal to reduce teen births by 46% by 2015 three years early. Despite the slight increase, the 2014 data remains below the original 2015 goal.

“The data illustrate that we cannot become complacent,” Angresano said. “We have new young people entering this critical age group each year, and we need to redouble our efforts to ensure success for them and for our entire community as we work toward our new goal.”

The goal is supported by the continuation of an unprecedented all-hands-on-deck approach adopted by the Milwaukee community since 2008. The effort is led by United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County, which brought together a diverse collaborative of community stakeholders that included local businesses, media outlets, health care providers, schools, and community- and faith-based organizations.

“Births to girls age 17 and younger are a significant public health problem in our community,” said Commissioner of Health Bevan Baker, who also serves as co-chair of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Oversight Committee at United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. “We’ve made great progress since 2008, but these recent data confirm that it will continue to take intensive, innovative, community-wide efforts to reach our aggressive 2023 goal.”

Along with education efforts, a public awareness strategy has sought to speak to teens about how getting pregnant negatively affects both young men and young women in both the short term and the long term. In addition, efforts have emphasized encouraging parents to talk to their teens about the issue. The campaigns have also brought attention to the problems of sexual violence and victimization of teens.

New ads were released on Monday as these statistics were released. This year's campaign is titled: "You're too young to be a grandparent," and focused on teens' parents and the importance of having the tough conversations.

"It`s a humorous way to remind them of a serious subject, which is you have to talk to your kids about this stuff. You have to make sure they have accurate evidence-based information and if you`re not talking to them somebody else definitely is," Angresano said.

The new ads will be displayed at 27 bus stops around the Greater Milwaukee area.

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