Over the last several months, the subject of teen pregnancy has gotten a lot of attention here in Mississippi. Glad to hear it.
Mississippi has traditionally had a very high teen pregnancy rate. Currently, it’s the highest in the nation and, according to a 2008 estimate from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, it’s costing our state at least $159 million per year. Teenage parents are more likely to forgo higher education and rely on public healthcare and child welfare programs. Their children are more likely to be incarcerated, too. It’s a heart breaking situation any way you look at it.
Our teen pregnancy rates have been declining a little. The rate has dropped about 23% since 1991. Still, there’s a long way to go. Fortunately, it seems like momentum is building for some real evidence-based strategy and intervention. Our new Governor, Phil Bryant said in his state-of-the-state address:
“…the epidemic of teenage pregnancy in this state must come to an end. Churches, schools, community organizations and most importantly, families, must realize that the highest teen pregnancy rate in America will eventually cripple our state. Such a change in a societal norm is possible. Forty years ago many of you here today would be smoking during this ceremony. It was the norm and few would have noticed. Society, however, decided that smoking was harmful and a slow but certain repudiation of the habit began. A similar repudiation of teen pregnancy must begin throughout Mississippi society.”
We couldn’t agree more. In fact, as the advertising agency that helped develop Mississippi’s youth tobacco prevention and cessation strategies, this kind of talk gets our gears turning. More to come…