Metro Health announces decrease in teen births

District 4 Councilman Rey Saldaña discusses the importance of having advocates combatting the teen pregnancy statistics in San Antonio during the release of the 2016 data of teen births. (Photo, Christina Acosta)

The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District, along with Project WORTH, released the 2016 provisional data on teen births in San Antonio on Wednesday with encouraging statistics.

There have been a recorded 2,044 births to females ages 10 to 19, representing approximately 39 teen births per week.  In 2016, San Antonio’s teen birth rate for females ages 15 to 19 was 30.2 per 1,000 teen births and represented a decline of 53 percent since 2006.

There were also 729 fewer teen births between the ages of 15 to from 2012-2016. Although preliminary data showed a positive trend, it also highlighted areas of concern for teen pregnancy.

“We are moving in the right direction in regards to preventing first time teen pregnancies, however, the percent of repeat teen pregnancies has not improved,” said Dr. Colleen Bridger, Director for Metro Health. “This is why the San Antonio Teen Pregnancy Prevention Collaborative has mobilized community partners to implement an action plan focusing on teen moms over the next year.”   

The 2016 teen birth rate was still nearly 50 percent higher than the national rate of 20.3 per 1,000 teen births. In 2016, 406 teen mothers who gave birth already had at least one child, accounting for 20 percent of all 2016 teen births.

For the past 17 years, Project WORTH (Working on Real Teen Health) in 2000 is the City of San Antonio’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. They have been on a mission to inspire youth and empower parents to prevent teen pregnancy by using evidence-based programs, promoting healthy behaviors and cultivating community relationships.

The program also uses teens as ambassadors to go to schools to speak to others about waiting to be a parent.

Diego Cura, a 17 year-old senior at the International School of the Americas, has been in this program for three years and learned about it through his mother. He explained that he has learned much about the health aspect about teen pregnancy and hopes that the number decreases all around San Antonio.

“During my time at Project Worth, I’ve learned a lot about the City of San Antonio and what it looks like from a health standpoint beyond just the age of teenagers,” said Cura to La Prensa. “Pretty much I see how we are doing health-wise for children and adults.”

Teen ambassadors will also be busy this year as Project WORTH is currently working on a new program to provide teens that have repeat births with additional resources.

“In order to help prevent repeat teen pregnancies, later in this year and into 2018, there will be mental health counseling for teen parents,” explained Mario Martinez, Project WORTH project Manager. “We did a root cause analysis and we determined that teen parents need mental health issues taken care of because parenting can be stressful. In addition to no-cost contraceptives as another strategy we will be implementing in our communities.”

Another initiative that is helping decrease the numbers in teen pregnancy is San Antonio Teen Pregnancy Prevention Collaborative (TPPC), a Metro Health and SA2020 workgroup.

They are on a mission to decrease the San Antonio, Bexar County teen birth rate in females ages 15 to 19 years old by 50 percent by the year 2020. The program looks through the knowledge of parent and teens pregnancy education through the community as well as schools.

The program hones in on working strategies including evidence-based programs sex education; quality adolescent healthcare that promotes teen hours and programs catered on the subject; community mobilization by creating accessible; easy to understand messaging for the community by way of social media and other outlets including campaigns; and educating stakeholders about determinants of healthy teen behavior and youth support/development.

Overall, Metro Health’s collaboration with programs such as Project WORTH and TPPC has enhanced resources to the community to help attack the teen pregnancy epidemic with the long-term strategies.

“When you think about where the issues in the city, the problems and solutions, then we just put together the resources and the right people,” said City Councilman Rey Saldaña (D4). “We have seen what kind of improvements can be made when a city, policy makers, advocates, nonprofit groups, volunteers and teens come together to make sure that we are attacking big issues like teen pregnancy.”