Teenage pregnancy and childbearing have long been viewed primarily as health problems. The public’s view of this issue, however, is changing. Today teen pregnancy is considered to be a major contributor to the spread of poverty, the rising school dropout rate, and to the growing dependency on an overburdened welfare system. Most of these young people lack proper parenting skills and many will find themselves ill-prepared to succeed in a competitive job market.
In 1995, there were more than a million pregnant teenagers in the United States. Texas ranked fifth in the United States in 1995 for the number of births to females ages 15 through 19. Texas’ birth rate for 15 – 19 year-olds was 79/1,000, while the national average was 61/1,000. In 1995, teenage girls accounted for 16.5% of the total live births in Texas.
The infant mortality rate in Houston has declined from 11 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1989 to 6.6 per 1,000 in 1995. Although overall rates are declining, the African-American infant mortality rate continues to remain high; current statistics in this population group reflect a rate of 10.0 per 1,000. Other findings reveal that teen mothers deliver infants who are preterm, have below average birthweight, and a higher percentage of birth defects. These conditions are clearly unacceptable and preventable. Therefore, the Northeast Adolescent Program is doing something about it. We know that early and regular prenatal care not only saves lives and creates a better future, but is also cost effective.
Our Goal is to lower the incidence of infant mortality and birth defects in babies born to young parents who live in the northeast section of the city.