MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A new report out Wednesday shows that birth and pregnancy rates of adolescents in Minnesota are at historic lows. Still, health researchers say more needs to be done to help lower rates of teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections in under-served communities, especially in greater Minnesota and among the state’s communities of color.

The 2016 Minnesota Adolescent Sexual Health Report, from the University of Minnesota’s Healthy Youth Development Prevention Research Center, shows that teen pregnancy among 15- to 19-year-olds has declined 66 percent from 1990 to 2014. Teen birth rates over the same period followed a similar trend, dropping by 58 percent.

Even within the last few years, those numbers have dropped. From 2013 to 2014, the numbers of teen pregnancies and births in Minnesota fell about 8 percent each.

The declines seen in the state reflect national trends, the report states. The overall decline is being attributed to delayed sexual activity among teens and improvements in their contraceptive use.

Still, when compared against the teen birth and pregnancy rates of other countries, the United States stands out. According to the report, the average teen birth rate in the U.S. (24 per 1,000) is six times higher than that of Denmark, Japan and the Netherlands, and it’s eight times higher than that of Switzerland.

Not Just A Metro Problem

While the overall numbers of teen pregnancies, births and sexually transmitted diseases (STIs) are higher in the Twin Cities metro, teen birth and pregnancy rates are highest in greater Minnesota.

According to the report, the 10 counties with the highest teen birth rates are all outside the metro. The top three counties with the highest teen birth rates are Watonwan, Mahnomen and Cass.

Teens in rural areas also account for 33 percent of chlamydia cases and 26 percent of gonorrhea cases in Minnesota.

The authors of the report recommend that there be greater emphasis on teen sexual health in greater Minnesota, especially in serving young men. Currently, adolescent sexual health care in rural areas is offered primarily through family planning services, which are geared towards females.

Sexual Health And Racial Disparities

While teen birth rates are declining for every racial group in Minnesota, there still remain persistent disparities between groups.

Native American teens, which only account for 1 percent of teens in the state, have the highest birth rate among Minnesota racial groups, at 40.9 per 1,000. That rate for the state is markedly higher than the national average for Native American teens, which is 27 per 1,000.

Hispanic/Latino teens have the next highest birth rate in Minnesota, at 38.8 per 1,000. Black teens in the state have the third highest, at 34.2 per 1,000.

In contrast, white teens, which account for nearly 80 percent of Minnesota’s teenage population, have a birth rate of 11 per 1,000. That’s lower than the national average for white teens, which is 17 per 1,000.

Disparities also persist in STI statistics, the report shows.

While black teens only make up 7 percent of the state’s teenage population, they suffer disproportionately in the number of cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea. Specifically, 27 percent of chlamydia cases affect black teens, as do nearly half of all teen gonorrhea cases.

To address these disparities, the authors of the report say that social determinants of health – such as poverty, racism and unequal access to education and health care – must be dealt with in under-served communities. These communities include not only youth of color, but LGBT youth, which face significant sexual health needs, the report says.

According to the report, bisexual females are five times more likely to have been pregnant than straight females and gay males are four times more likely to report getting someone pregnant than straight males.

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