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Press Briefing Transcript

CDC Vital Signs: Teen Pregnancy — United States, 1991–2009

Tuesday, April 5, 2011 – 12:00pm ET

Operator: Welcome and thank you for standing by. At this time all participants are in listen only mode. During the question and answer session today you may press star 1 to ask a question. Today's conference is being recorded. You may begin.

Karen Hunter: Thanks, Shirley. Good afternoon. Thanks for joining us for this month's Vital Signs report which focuses on preventing teen pregnancy in the United States. Our speakers today will be Ursula Bauer, Ph.D., and her name is spelled u-r-s-u-l-a b-a-u-e-r. She's the director of CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. And we have Wanda Barfield, hat's w-a-n-d-a b-a-r-f-i-e-l-d. She's director of CDC's Division of Reproductive Health. Our speakers will make remarks and we'll open it up for questions. We'll start with Dr. Bauer.

Ursula Bauer: Thank you, Karen. We're here to talk about 400,000 teens between the ages of 15 and 19 who gave birth in 2009 and the declines in our teen birth rate. While we're making significant progress in bringing down our teen birth rates, we have much more work to do in order to bring down those rates in line with most other developed countries. Teen pregnancy is a health concern because of the consequences for teen moms, for their children, and for society. Teen moms are more likely to drop out of high school and they are less likely to ever receive a high school diploma. They are unlikely to achieve full income potential and more likely to need public assistance. Teens are more likely to deliver a low birth weight baby or a preterm baby and babies born to teen moms are more likely to die in infancy and are more likely to have a teen birth and to drop out of high school when they are teens. Although most teen births occur to whites, Hispanic and black teens are two to three times more likely to have a teen birth. Fortunately we do know how to prevent teen pregnancy and doctor Barfield is going to talk to us about how we do that.

Karen Hunter: Thank you, Dr. Bauer. Now we'll turn it over to Dr. Barfield.

Wanda Barfield: Thank you, Karen. Fortunately we do know how to prevent teen pregnancy and everyone has a role to play. Teens themselves can delay sex as long as possible and use effective contraception when they are sexually active. Parents can stay in touch with their teens and talk with them about sexual and reproductive health. Schools can provide comprehensive, age appropriate sex education and communities and health care providers can make it easy for sexually active teens to get health care services including birth control. With better information, skills and access and more communications with parents and care givers, teens will be best able to make real decisions about the sexual and reproductive health including delaying the onset of sexual activity. Also, the U.S. Government has an important role to play as well. The president's teen pregnancy initiative managed by the department of health and human services office of adolescent health is helping teens, parents, communities and schools as well as health care providers to do their part in preventing teen pregnancy by implementing evidence based programs that work.

Karen Hunter: Thank you, Dr. Barfield. Shirley, I think we can open it up for questions.

Operator: At this time we're ready to beginning the question and answer session. If you would like to ask a question, press star 1 to ask a question and one moment for our first question. At this time I'm showing no questions. If you have a question, just press star 1. One moment please. One moment please. Our first question comes in from Betsy McKay with the Wall Street Journal, you may ask your question.

Betsy McKay: Hi, Dr. Bauer and Dr. Barfield. I had a couple of questions. One is that the data indicate that while, you know, the teen birth rates went up a bit it looks like in 2006 they've come down pretty sharply since 2007 it looks like. I wonder if you could talk about what's happened in that time period that maybe wasn't happening in the preceding years and secondly, the report says that all of the findings suggest that many teens do not receive formal sexual education involving abstinence and contraception. Can you explain what they're not getting and ideally they should be getting in terms of sex education?

Wanda Barfield: Yes. Hi. Thank you for the question. To address your second question first in terms of teens not receiving as much education as they need, we note that both boys and girls are not receiving the amount of sexual education that they need and that there are really two components that we're looking at in that survey that include abstinence based education as well as sexual education on contraception. So what we've noticed is that teens are not receiving both abstinence education as well as sexual education.

Betsy McKay: Okay. Do you mean abstinence based programs or do you mean comprehensive sex education that would include information about contraception and abstinence promotion?

Wanda Barfield: Only 50% of teen high school students are receiving both abstinence based education and comprehensive sexual education to include contraception.

Ursula Bauer: What we're trying to achieve here is to delay the onset of sexual activity and for those teens who become sexually active to make sure that they have the information about contraception that they need to avoid pregnancy and also the information they need to avoid sexually transmitted diseases so we want to ensure that our teens are receiving both components, comprehensive sex education program.

Wanda Barfield: If addition we also know that amongst sexually active boys and girls, 20% of sexually active girls and 31% of sexually active boys have not talked to their parents about sex so there really is an opportunity for parents to be involved as well.

Betsy McKay: Okay. And the first question the data, it looks like a pretty sharp drop in the past couple of years.

Wanda Barfield: Yes. There has been a more recent drop in the past couple of years in terms of the rates that we're seeing. And it may be due to some short-term variation in the data. It's something that's very important for us to continue to follow because, again, we are actually seeing a 37% decrease over the past two decades. However, we still have a ways to go in terms of improving our teen birth rates to reflect those seen in other developed parts of the world. Again, we still have over 400,000 girls age 15 to 19 who gave birth in 2009. It's an important trend to follow to make sure that we're continuing to see these declines.

Betsy McKay: You're not sure yet whether you are starting to see — whether this is the beginning of another relatively steep drop in the teen birth rate. Are you saying it's too early to tell yet?

Wanda Barfield: It's still early to tell. We're optimistic. I think again some of the things that we can do is to continue to make sure that teens are, one, having an opportunity to delay sex as long as possible. That those that are sexually active are receiving evidence based sex education and that all of us have a role to play in terms of our teens, our parents, our communities and our providers in terms of preventing teen pregnancy.

Betsy McKay: Okay.

Karen Hunter: Thank you.

Betsy McKay: Thank you.

Karen Hunter: Do we have additional questions?

Operator: We do have a question from Jennifer Kherani with the Dr. Oz Show. You may ask your question.

Jennifer Kherani: Hi. Thank you. Good morning. I wanted to ask — I know that this statistic is measuring live births and just looking at living births, I wondered if the statistics represents other procedures like miscarriage or abortion or just live birth that you are recording.

Wanda Barfield: Yes. Thank you for the question. This Vital Signs report does not contain information except for teen birth rates so this really reports information about teen child birth. Information about miscarriages are not within the report.

Jennifer Kherani: I see. Do you happen to know if there has been either an increase in miscarriages or abortions or if that is a completely unrelated statistic?

Ursula Bauer: The data that we have in Vital Signs around teen birth is for 2009. The CDC does have a report called the Abortion Surveillance Report that reports data from 2007 and from what we've seen over time there are declines in the rates of abortion for all age groups including teens. We've also noticed that there's a decline in the number of abortions to live births which implies a decrease in pregnancy rates overall. Again, we don't have specific information on miscarriage rates but overall pregnancy rates and abortion rates are declining. What we're seeing is long-term declines in both teen birth rates and teen abortion rates and therefore we're hopeful that teen pregnancy rates are coming down. We're also seeing declines in the percentage of high school students who are sexually active and we're seeing increases in the use of effective contraception among those high school students who are sexually active. So all of these trends point to very positive outcomes for our teens so we can be optimistic about the future. However, that 400,000 number is quite startling and we need to reenergize our efforts to bring that down.

Karen Hunter: Thank you. Do we have additional questions?

Operator: We do have a question from Althea Fung from the National Journal, you may ask your question.

Althea Fung: So you were saying that the education should be a combined abstinence and sexual education but do you have results on whether only abstinence education is effective or sexual education is effective if done separately?

Wanda Barfield: Thank you for your question. We do know that not one size fits all in terms of the opportunities to prevent teen pregnancy. What we do know in terms of thinking about how a program may be effective, we need to consider that it provides science based curricula and guidance for educational services that it gives teens referrals to health professionals trained and that are able to provide high quality medical services and also that it monitors the progress in obtaining objectives for service delivery including educational content and it should also support youth development activities. Offering services that are offer positive peer pressure and options for teens to obtain other goals.

Karen Hunter: Thank you. Next question.

Operator: Thank you. Again, if you have a question press star 1. Our next question is from Heidi Splete with Family Practice News. You may ask your question.

Heidi Splete: Hi. Thank you for taking my question. I guess this is for Dr. Bauer or either of you that wants to jump in, so what's the take home message for doctors who are treating teenagers? What can they take away from these findings and what can they be doing to help improve the situation even more?

Ursula Bauer: Thanks for the question. Yes. Certainly health care providers have a key role to play in bringing down teen birth rates and teen pregnancy rates. Certainly talking to teens both boys and girls about sexual health and reproductive health. And talking about available contraception is very important for health care providers in their encounters with teens.

Karen Hunter: Thank you. Next question.

Operator: Thank you. Next question comes from Jennifer Kherani with the Dr. Oz Show. You may ask your question.

Jennifer Kherani: Hi. I thought of one other question. I see that we're number nine amongst developed countries in terms of our birth rate for teens. What are the other countries doing that is so successful that countries that are above us? Is it education? Is it a difference in health care system that they have? Just wondered if you happen to know that.

Ursula Bauer: It's a combination. We don't have the full story of why other countries have succeeded in reducing teen pregnancy far below our rates. But there's a combination of comprehensive sexual education in schools. A lot more conversation with parents and care givers about sexual and reproductive health and ready access to effective contraception and access of teens who are sexually active.

Karen Hunter: Thank you. Do we have another question?

Operator: At this time I'm showing no further questions. If you have a question, press star 1.

Karen Hunter: Okay. That will wrap up our briefing on this month's Vital Signs report. The transcript of this telebriefing will be available on CDC's press room site later this afternoon. The address is www.cdc.gov/media. Thank you for joining us.

Operator: We thank you for your participation. At this time you may disconnect your lines.

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