California County Addresses Teen Pregnancy Rate Among Hispanics
Cultural differences and beliefs, as well as language barriers, likely contribute to the high teen pregnancy rate in a Santa Cruz County, Calif., community that is mostly Hispanic, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reports in a two-part series. The county's city of Watsonville, where many residents have come from rural parts of Mexico, has the highest teen pregnancy rate in the county, according to the Sentinel. In 2005, four of every five births among women ages 15 to 19 in the county were to Watsonville residents, according to a Community Assessment Project report. The county's overall teen birth rate has dropped by 18% since 1996, but Watsonville's decline has been "barely noticeable," the Sentinel reports. Dennis Chamberlain, an obstetrician at Watsonville Community Hospital, said it is common in Mexican culture to start a family at a young age. According to the Population Resource Center, Hispanics have the highest teen birth rates of all ethnic groups. The center attributes the high rate to religious opposition to abortion and the fact that Hispanic families' generally provide "extensive family support" to care for children of teen mothers, the Sentinel reports. According to Carole Browner, a medical anthropologist at the University of California-Los Angeles, marriage and child-bearing usually begin in late adolescence in rural parts of Mexico and that tradition often continues in the U.S. In addition, farming societies tend to value women as child-bearers because of the nature of the work, Browner said. However, she added, "I think families do not want their teenagers to get pregnant as young as they do. They want them to succeed in America. Changing human behavior is never easy and never fast" (Satyanarayana, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 3/18). The county is offering several programs for teens to address the issue, such as the Teen Parent Program at Watsonville Community School, an alternative education campus, and the Teen Advocacy Program, which sends groups of students to schools to discuss safer sex (Satyanarayana, Santa Cruz Sentinel, 3/19).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.