Teen pregnancy is of national concern because of the critical implications it has for a number of social and economic issues: poverty, education, infant mortality rates, early brain development and overall quality of life for both the mother and child. Teen mothers are less likely to gain sufficient weight during pregnancy, which unfortunately has consequences for the infant’s birth weight. Low birth weight, among other causes, is a precursor to other infant and childhood illnesses and infant mortality as infants are born with underdeveloped organs. In Shelby County, the rate for infants born with low birthweight is 25% higher than the national average (The Urban Child Institute, 2009). Additionally, teen mothers often do not have access to or receive prenatal care. As a result, the infant may be unintentionally exposed to a host of developmental problems such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders and congenital malformations such as Down Syndrome, heart defects, and cleft palate. (Healthcommunities.com, 2011).
Recently, Shelby County made national headlines as one Frayser high school reported 90 pregnancies among students. The annual teen pregnancy rate for the Shelby County area is approximately 15-20%, twice the national average of 10%. In an effort to decrease the number of unplanned pregnancies, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy has been established to educate teens on all of the issues surrounding sex and pregnancy in order to prevent teen pregnancies across the nation.
Started in 1996, the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy utilizes a two-fold approach, supporting both “responsible values and behaviors by both men and women and responsible policies in both the public and private sector” (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2008). In addition, the National Campaign promotes its mission through the application of the following techniques:
- Raises awareness through affiliation with the media, policy makers, organizations, and influential leaders in addition to joining forces with religious and community groups
- Promotes discussion about prevention of teen and unplanned pregnancies
- Develops and distributes materials including pamphlets, online information, and videos through innovative marketing strategies and partnerships with entertainment media
Over the last ten years, the National Campaign has measured immense success, reducing the national rate of teen pregnancy by 38% to an all-time low. Additionally, the campaign boasts of “14 million web visits, 7.6 million informational materials distributed, 6,000 newspaper mentions, 100 media partnerships, and 3 million National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy participants” (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2008). However, the National Campaign has recently been threatened by budgetary cuts and the elimination of family planning and maternal and child health programs. At the same time, a number of President Obama’s 2012 budgetary allowances continue to provide much-needed support for these types of programs. These allowances will continue to fund evidence-based pregnancy prevention community grants that support effective programs and provide research into innovative and effective prevention strategies. Additionally, the budget will allocate money toward the Personal Education Responsibility Program (PREP). This program not only educates adolescents on the use of contraceptives and avoidance of sexually transmitted diseases, but also supports programs that prepare adolescents for adulthood and other programs that specifically target at-risk populations. Other initiatives funded by the 2012 budget include Title IX family planning programs and a teen pregnancy prevention program established by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, 2011).
Locally, the Memphis City school board, in partnership with Girls Inc., has been working to promote the National Campaign’s key message through the NO Baby Campaign. The mission of NoBaby is to educate adolescent and preadolescent girls so that they may make the choice to resist external peer pressure in order to prevent unplanned pregnancies. The NoBaby campaign not only supports the informed use of contraceptives by girls but also fosters a supportive community of peers. Posters, radio advertisements, outdoor postings, and a comprehensive website promote NoBaby events, clubs, and meetings. To learn more about the national and local efforts, visit The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancies