CDC media briefing on teen pregnancy

Press Briefing Transcript

April 08, 2014 at 12 noon ET

OPERATOR: I’d like to thank all participants for holding. All lines will be on listen only until the question and answer portion of today’s conference. I’d also like to inform participants today’s call is being recorded. I would now like to turn the call over to Llelwyn Grant. Thank you. You may begin.

LLELWYN GRANT: Thank you, operator. Good afternoon. I wish to thank you all for joining us for today’s release of CDC’s Vital Signs report on teen birth. Here to discuss the report is CDC’s Principal Deputy Director, Dr.Ileana Arias. The first name’s spelled I-L-E-A-N-A, last name’s spelled A-R-I-A-S. She will be joined by Dr.Lee Warner. First name’s spelled L-E-E, last name Warner, W-A-R-N-E-R. Dr.Warner is the Associate Director for Science with CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health. Following their remarks, we will take your questions. At this time, I would like to turn it over to Dr.Arias.

ILEANA ARIAS: Thank you. Thanks to all of you for joining us by phone today, and thank you for hanging in there. I apologize for the unforeseen delay. Glad to be with you here now. As a lot of you know, CDC works 24 hours a day every day of the week to save lives and protect people. That’s why we release the Vital Signs reports which are special MMWR publication that highlight a critical public health issue that faces the country and what can be done about it. Those of you who cover CDC regularly know that reviews of the past Vital Signs to shed light on the cycle of poverty that’s associated with teen pregnancy and births. If you’ve been following the issue, you also know that there have been noted declines in births to teens, which is good news. It is clear these are victories that help individuals, families and communities. However, we can’t be complacent when we hear about these declines in teen pregnancies and births. We still need to make more progress in reducing health disparities and the public health burden related to teen pregnancies and births. This year we analyzed 2012 data about teen births focusing on ages 15 to 17 years, that is before teens typically finish high school and unfortunately when a pregnancy or birth could interfere with finishing high school and possibly leading to negative educational, occupational and economic and health trajectories. What we found is that one in four teens giving birth were ages 15 to 17. This is nearly 1,700 younger teens who are giving birth per week in this age group. The Vital Signs is a reminder that we as health professionals have a special duty to give young people the necessary knowledge, skills and the encouragement to make healthy decisions and engage in healthy behaviors. The younger teen years, 15 to 17, are critical time when a teen especially a young woman could jeopardize her future if she can’t complete high school or go to college. Academic performance could be affected by absences from the classroom and even in situations where school systems offer special education services to teen mothers, they could be negatively impacted. And not to forget that teen fathers also may be at risk for their education, could also be deferred if they must work before or after school to help support their child. In other words, our young women and men who are parents may face difficulties in reaching their dreams, even with the best social support. In the Vital Signs that we are releasing, we urge health professionals to provide young people with the support or the opportunities to empower themselves. This responsibility also extends to parents, to guardians, community leaders and teens themselves. There are ways we can work together to develop a teen’s capability to acquire and use skills and social competency and learn very important steps to reducing the risk of teen pregnancy. It’s up to us to give youth the message that they are worthwhile, that there are adults willing to help themselves navigate the passage from child to adult. These messages can come from doctors, from nurses, other health care providers, as well as family members and peer educators. We have seen that some communities are turning peer pressure into something positive and developing assets appropriate for and accepted by young women and men. Before I ask Dr.Warner to discuss the data and findings in more detail, I want to bring your attention to two aspects of the Vital Signs that are particularly important to me. First, we have the opportunity to provide our youth with complete and accurate health information in a respectful and culturally appropriate way. This includes counseling about fears and concerns, helping teens understand what services are available, what matters are private and confidential, and what services actually require parental and guardian consent. These are concepts that are central to the delivery of teen-friendly health and related services. Second, in discussing teen births, we also should recognize that diversity of families and communities. There are many cultural, ethnic and racial groups with values to be appreciated and respected. These values are reflected in the many nuances about the role of parents and community institutions, including community and faith-based organizations. It’s also represented in the media and social media that attract the attention of teens and their parents. Through all of these, we have a means to reach our younger teens. And now I’d like to turn it over to Dr.Warner who is going to go through the important data that are presented in today’s Vital Signs report.

LEE WARNER: Thank you, Dr.Arias. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to talk with all of you about this issue of Vital Signs. We areheartened by the immediate response by our Vital Signs series on preventing teen pregnancy with a focus on younger teens. It’s nice we can bring you positive news about the health of teens to families and communities. It’s also good to know that you remain interested in the dynamics that affect young women and men in our nation. First, the good news is the rate of births per thousand teens age 15 to 17 years declined 63 percent in the past two decades from 38.6 in 1991 to 14.1 in 2012. Note that these numbers are slightly different from those that appear in the press release. And again, the numbers were declined 63 percent in the past two decades from 38.6 in 1991 to 14.1 in 2012. And if you’ll check the CDC web site, we’ll have the correct numbers on there. Still, in 2012, there were 86,423 births to teens this age. And births from this age group represent about 25 percent of all teen births. Second, there is varies in births to younger teens. In 2012, the highest rates were among Hispanic teens followed by non-Hispanic blacks, American Indians and Alaskan natives. Births among these racial and ethnic groups were two to three times higher than among non-Hispanic whites. Third, the encouraging news. We found that only one in four teens of this age group have ever had sex. That’s good news, but the question is whether they’re prepared to take precautions if and when they embark in a sexual relationship. Consider this. While the majority of younger teens have talked to their parents or guardians about sex, only about four in 10 receive information on both birth control and how to say no to sex. And research shows that teens who talk with their parents about sex, relationships, birth control and pregnancy begin to have sex at a later age, use condoms and birth control more often when they actually do have sex, have better communication with partners, and have sex less often. More than 80 percent of sexually experienced teens in this age group did not receive formal sex education before having sex for the first time. This statistic reveals something very important. We are missing opportunities to deliver prevention messages before younger teens start having sex. These messages should include how to say no to sex and yes to considering the most effective methods of contraceptive use. Among younger teens that are currently sexually active, over half have received clinical birth control services in the past year. This leads us to the concept of increasing the presence of teen friendly resources, including health services to encourage use of the most effective methods of pregnancy prevention. As a vital signs notes, about 52 percent of sexually active younger teens used a less effective pregnancy prevention method, primarily condoms alone. In 39 percent, pills patch or are used, 1 percent use IUDs or implants. In a setting such as a teen clinic, health professionals can provide important education and counseling on the most effective methods such as IDUs and implants. This would include accurate information to help dispel myths and misconceptions about sex, sexuality and reproductive health. It would also consider an assessment that considers the teen’s medical history and risk behaviors. We are also not leaving young males out of the equation. Teen males need to know the facts about contraceptives, including condoms. Their involvement is key to helping teens accept the practice of dual protection that is the use of a condom paired with contraception that offers protection from pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases. We also believe young men could benefit from teen friendly services that help them understand sexual health risks and consequences. Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that May is Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month. This is a time when groups organize special activities and program wills so please consider the vital signs information as you plan your content for next month. We know you have the ability to turn data into thoughtful narratives and dialogues on the conditions facing young women or men in your community.

LLELWYN GRANT: Thank you, Dr.Arias and Dr.Warner. At this time, I would like to open it up for questions.

OPERATOR: If you would like to ask a question, press star 1. Please record your name when prompted. Once again, star 1 for questions.

OPERATOR: Mike Stobbe, Associated Press, your line is open.

MIKE STOBBE: Hi, thank you for taking my question. Could you say a little more about the methodology behind these numbers, the national survey of family growth? How many teens were surveyed? What was the participation rate? Where was it done? Was it done in schools, or was it a telephone survey at their homes? A little bit more about where the data comes from.

LEE WARNER: Sure. The national survey is a survey that’s been conducted byNational Center for Health Statistics, it’s connected periodically most recently since 2006 it’s been an in-person survey, nationally representative, and it’s– there’s a survey of females and separate survey of males who are of reproductive age, ages 15 to 44, looking at sexual behaviors, attitudes and contraceptive use. The exact number of the sample i’d have to get back to you on. I don’t have it in front of me. But it’s a representative sample and in this analysis we focused on those who were never married female teens, only in the age of 15 to 17 years.

MIKE STOBBE: Okay, thanks.

OPERATOR: Once again, star 1 to ask a question. Maggie Fox, NBC News, your line is open.

MAGGIE FOX: Hi, thanks. There are some amazing state by state differences. Can you speak to why we see Washington, D.C., at the top, why we see some of the states that we see in the top sort of one-fifth and then huge differences to the states at the bottom?

LEE WARNER: Sure. That’s a great question. Thanks for asking. Unfortunately, our analysis we cannot point out specific reasons for these types of variations by state, although as you note there are wide disparities between what you see in some states such as New Hampshire, Massachusetts versus those like District of Columbia. We do believe that there’s demographics of the population, these include race, ethnicity, poverty rates, may contribute to the state variations. And they can also reflect differences in many factors, risk behaviors such as sexual activity, contraceptive use and attitude among teens about pregnancy and child bearing. I think what the vital signs does is highlight even in the 15 to 17-year-old group there are vast differences in the rates of births per thousand teens. Certainly it warrants more attention.

MAGGIE FOX: Can I just follow up on that, though? Because I know, as you know, this is a hugely political issue, and there would be the temptation to say that some of the states that have really buckled and mandated abstinence only education would argue that’s in fact what’s working and not comprehensive education.

LEE WARNER: I don’t think we have anything from this analysis to comment on that.


LLELWYN GRANT: Next question, operator.

OPERATOR: Once again, if you would like to ask a question, press star 1. Showing no questions.

LLELWYN GRANT: I wish to thank you all. I would like to turn it over to Dr.Arias who will have some parting comments for us.

ILEANA ARIAS: Sure, thank you. And thank you for joining us, again. The bottom line is that teen pregnancy continues to decline, and we’re very happy about that. Still, in 2012 more than 300,000, 15 to 19-year-olds gave birth and 1 out of 4 was young teens. The younger teen years are a time of exploration and growth for our youth, and we really need to invest in teens in order to empower them to make smart choices, to make healthy choices and be able to control their future. We all need to help teens delay sexual activity and to encourage them to use the most effective contraception if they are sexually active. We can’t afford to be complacent because we’re seeing a decline in teen births, and we want to make sure that our attention and effort is not going to lead to a reversal of that success. The only other thing that I want to do is remind you that it there has been a slight change to the numbers that were provided in the press release. Those were, again, available– or will be available on our web site, and we can repeat them now just to make sure you have them.

LEE WARNER: Sure. Those numbers, again, should be the rate of births per thousand teens ages 15 to 17; the decline is 63 percent from a rate of 38.6 in 1991 to a rate of 14.1 in 2012.

LLELWYN GRANT: I wish to thank you all for participating in today’s telebriefing. For more information about the vital signs report on teen births, please visit our web site at A transcript of today’s telebriefing will include the new numbers that were referred to and will be available later this afternoon. If there are any follow-up questions, feel free to call our press office, 404-639-3286. This concludes our telebriefing. Thank you, and have a great day.

OPERATOR: Thank you. That does conclude the call for today. Please indicate connect your phone lines at this time.


Page last reviewed: April 8, 2014