MANKATO — Teen pregnancy rates nationwide are dropping in nearly every state, and Minnesota’s is now the eighth lowest.
A report this week issued by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn’t say why the rates have plummeted, but Minnesota’s rate dropped about 19 percent from 2007 to 2010.
About 34 births per 1,000 women ages 15-19 occurred in 2010 in the U.S., compared to 22.5 in Minnesota. The seven states with lower birth rates are all in the Northeast with New Hampshire leading the way at 15.7 births per 1,000 teen women. Wisconsin had the 10th-lowest teen birth rate among states.
Rankings among counties weren’t included in the report. But state statistics for 2010 show Blue Earth County had averaged 13.6 births per 1,000 women, while Nicollet averaged 13.4, which were the lowest in the region. Watonwan County’s rate was 43.6; Faribault’s was 28.7; Waseca’s 27.1; Sibley’s 25; Le Sueur’s 21.6; and Brown’s 19.8.
Even though the county’s numbers are going down, Kelley Haeder, Blue Earth County’s public health supervisor, said the county has a pair of programs that help educate and prepare teen moms for the big job that awaits them.
One is the Birth to Minors program, run through the Department of Human Services. The department contacts all new moms under age 18. That staff member helps with skills the girls need to be a parent.
The other program is the Teenage Pregnant and Parenting Program, which helps teens with life skills to hopefully maintain a path to a life of success.
Haeder says the biggest hurdle for them is the obvious one: They have a child while still being a child themselves.
“They’re still developing themselves,” she said. “They’re still figuring out who they are in addition to finishing their education, so they have a lot on their plate.
“We certainly enjoy working with them,” Haeder said. “Some of them are very committed and wanting to be a better parent.”
At the state level, Minnesota health officials who follow the numbers say it’s not all good news.
“When you look at our state ranking, we rank very well. But that masks some of the huge disparities we have within the state,” said Mary Jo Chippendale, the infant, adolescent and women’s health supervisor at the Minnesota Department of Health.
The state continues to have wider racial disparities when it comes to teen birth rates than the nation, Chippendale said.
The birth rate among American Indian and Hispanic teens in Minnesota is more than three times higher than the rate for white teens. The rate is also higher for African Americans and Asian/Pacific Islanders than for whites.
Health officials attribute the overall decline in birth rates to effective use of contraception and educational programs aimed at preventing teen pregnancy. Sexual activity among Minnesota teens has increased slightly in the last few years.
Minnesota Public Radio News contributed to this report.