CDC Priority: Improving the Health and Future of Adolescents

CDC Priority: Improving the Health and Future of Adolescents Through Preventing Teen Pregnancy

By Carla P. White, MPH
Independent Consultant
CDC/Division of Reproductive Health 

In the spring of 2010, CDC Director Thomas Frieden, MD, MPH, highlighted teen pregnancy as one of the agency’s top public health priorities. CDC addresses such priorities through strengthening surveillance and epidemiology, supporting family planning services and evidence-based programs in states and communities, and providing data needed for making informed policy decisions. 

In 2008, 435,000 live births occurred to mothers aged 15-19 years, a birth rate of 41.5 per 1,000 women in this age group.[1] Nearly two thirds of births to mothers younger than age 18 and more than half among mothers aged 18-19 years are unintended.[2] Despite significant and steady declines in teen birth rates in recent decades, this decrease appears to have slowed recently, with rates increasing from 2005 to 2007, then decreasing slightly in 2008. The U.S. teen pregnancy and birth rate are substantially higher than those of all other western industrialized nations. 

Teen pregnancy and childbearing bring substantial social and economic costs through immediate and long-term impacts on teen parents and their children. For example, pregnancy and birth are significant contributors to high school drop out among girls, and only about 50 percent of teen mothers receive a high school diploma by age 22, versus nearly 90 percent of women who had not given birth during adolescence.[3] The children of teenage mothers are more likely to have lower cognitive attainment and proficiency scores at kindergarten entry, exhibit behavior problems, have chronic medical conditions, rely more heavily on publicly provided health care, be incarcerated at some time during adolescence, drop out of high school, give birth as a teenager, and be unemployed, or underemployed as a young adult.[4] 

CDC is expanding its leadership in preventing teen pregnancy and reducing disparities in teen pregnancy and birth rates. CDC and its partners are taking a multifaceted approach to this public health priority by addressing four specific areas: 

  • Increasing access to and use of contraceptives among sexually active teens.
  • Implementing evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention programs, including youth development programs that reduce risk factors associated with teen pregnancy.
  • Identifying and promoting policies supportive of adolescent reproductive health.
  • Establishing communitywide teen pregnancy prevention efforts that involve multiple levels of providers and organizations within communities, and that are sustained beyond CDC funding periods. 

[1] Hamilton BE, Martin JA, Ventura SJ. Births: Preliminary data for 2008. National vital statistics reports web release; vol 58 no 16. Hyattsville, Maryland: National Center for Health Statistics. Released April, 2010.

[2] Chandra A, Martinez GM, Mosher WD, Abma JC, Jones J. Fertility, family planning, and reproductive health of U.S. women: Data from the 2002 National Survey of Family Growth. Vital Health Stat 2005;23(25).

[3] Perper K, Peterson K, Manlove J. Diploma attainment among teen mothers. Child Trends, Fact Sheet Publication #2010-01: Washington, DC. January 2010.

[4] Hoffman SD. Kids having kids: economic costs and social consequences of teen pregnancy. The Urban Institute Press, 2008.