MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The rate of teen births in Minnesota’s most populous county is continuing to drop.
On Thursday, officials in Hennepin County said that last year there was a 12.4 percent decrease in teen births. The drop even outpaced the statewide average decrease, which was at 11.3 percent.
Thursday’s announcement continues a long-term trend. In the last decade, there’s been a 66 percent drop in the birth rate for teens ages 15-19.
Kathy Wick, the manager of Better Together Hennepin, the county’s teen pregnancy prevention program, says the drop is no coincidence.
“This has been a long-term focus of Hennepin County, to arm youth to make informed decisions about their sexual health, and to assure access to reproductive health care and caring, approachable adults who can answer their questions and provide guidance,” she said, in a news release.
Better Together Hennepin works with schools, clinics and nonprofits – like Planned Parenthood – to educate teens about sexual health. Officials say continuing to cut down on the teen birth rate has big social and financial benefits.
For instance, they say children born to teen mothers are at a greater risk for infant death, health problems, cognitive and emotional delays and to give birth while teenagers themselves.
Additionally, officials say that more than half of all human services spending in Minnesota goes to families that began with a teen parent, costing taxpayers millions of dollars.
“The Hennepin County Board has long realized that teen pregnancies are devastating to all concerned,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Mike Opat, in a news release. “We have made prevention our priority and the work is paying off, but we have more to do.”
While all demographics in Hennepin County saw drops in teen births last year, there are significant disparities. Officials say that teen birth rates are 8-to-13 times higher for black, Native American and Latino teens.
As such, the county is strategically focusing its efforts on the cities with the highest teen birth rates – Minneapolis, Robbinsdale, Richfield, Brooklyn Park and Brooklyn Center.
Last year, only one of those cities – Brooklyn Center – saw its teen birth rate rise.
Meanwhile, the Trump Administration recently announced cuts to funding for teen pregnancy prevention. Among the cuts was a $1.5 million grant to Better Together Hennepin that was slashed from five years to three years.
The federal grant money will now dry up next June.