By Karen Stokes
Good news for Milwaukee. According to the latest CDC report, in the last 10 years, the average teen birth rate in Milwaukee has dropped more than 54 percent compared to nationally, the birthrate dropped 40 percent.
The most current data for Milwaukee shows that the number of births to teens 17-years-old and under dropped below 300 for the first time in history. However, because there are fewer teens overall, the overall teen birth rate ticked upward slightly from 22.9 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 17 to 23.7 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to17.
The United Way of Greater Milwaukee and Waukesha has been working on an effort to reduce teen pregnancy since 2006, collaborating with schools, media, health care providers, businesses and community and faith-based organizations. The positive outcomes were celebrated at United Way’s Women United Bruncheon at the Pfister Hotel.
“The event had the highest turnout ever,” said Nicole Angresano, VP of Community Impact for United Way.
At the bruncheon, Jan Martin, an advocate for teen pregnancy prevention and a founding member of the Teen Pregnancy Oversight Committee was awarded the inaugural Linda T. Mellowes “Woman Leader of the Year” award. The award is awarded to a woman who exhibits leadership as a role model and gives back to the community.
“Jan Martin is behind the scenes but is a mighty force for social good and social justice,” said Angresano. “She has been an advocate for teen pregnancy prevention since day one.”
There are reasons that Angresano believes that the 10 year collaborative efforts were essential to the decline in teen birth rate.
“We’ve had an aggressive approach to our public awareness campaign, we’ve made sure this issue was front and center for the last decade,” Angresano said. “We’ve developed support and implemented educational classes mainly about making better choices.
Thousands of Milwaukee youth have received an eight week class where they were given information to make healthy choices.”
“Teens from Milwaukee when given the opportunity to make choices for themselves, when they have information and guidance from adults they have been making better decisions,” Angresano said. “The delay of sexual activity and the use of contraceptives, we know that both of those things have been happening. If the young people don’t make the healthier decisions that they’re making we wouldn’t see these statistics.”
Another factor that many may believe might be a reason for the decline in the teen birth rate is the abortion rate.
According to Angresano, the teen abortion rate has not increased. In fact, the abortion rates have gone down in all age groups and all ethnicities in America.
Matthew Clifton, a Milwaukee parent said, “I believe good parenting is so important. I enforce the message with my son and daughter to not have children before they’re married. I tell them they need to go college and get a good job. If you don’t have nothing, how can you take care of your children?”
“Feedback is that people are really proud of Milwaukee and what we can accomplish when we work together,” said Angresano. “It is really gratifying.”