Tuesday, May 6, 2003

City's teen births hit 14-year low

Report doesn't claim to be complete analysis

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The number of teenage girls in Cincinnati giving birth to children of their own reached its lowest level in 14 years in 2002, according to a report issued Monday.

The annual survey was conducted by Postponing Sexual Involvement, an agency that has been providing an abstinence-focused pregnancy prevention program to seventh-graders in Cincinnati Public Schools since 1990.

The agency reports that 227 births occurred in 2002 among 12- to 16-year-old girls who lived within the Cincinnati Public School district and delivered at any of five hospitals - University, Good Samaritan, Christ, Mercy-Franciscan Mount Airy and Bethesda North.

That figure is down nearly 17 percent from 273 births reported in 2001 and about 42 percent from 391 births reported in 1993.

The survey can reflect trends in teen pregnancy because it has been conducted the same way for several years. But the report does not claim to be a complete analysis of teen pregnancy.

Among the report's limitations: It measures the number of births, not birth rates, so it cannot reflect changes in the city's teen population nor compare teen pregnancy rates to state or national averages. It excludes 17-year-olds. It also does not measure teen births outside the ZIP codes that feed to the Cincinnati schools, nor city girls who give birth at nonparticipating hospitals.

The survey makes no conclusions about why the births have declined.

"Young teen births have gone down and stayed down in the Cincinnati area," said PSI coordinator Christopher Kraus.

"While the PSI program cannot claim credit for this dramatic trend, it would be reasonable to infer that PSI is among the many factors responsible for the decline in births to young teens."

Teen births have declined nationwide through much of the 1990s, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cincinnati has exceeded national and state averages for years.

Some sources of birth data confirm that Cincinnati has joined many other parts of the country that have seen declines in teen births. The statistics are kept in differing ways.

Of the nation's 50 biggest cities, Cincinnati had the 11th highest rate of births among 15- to 19-year-old mothers in 1991. By 1996, the rate had declined 20 percent and Cincinnati had the 17th highest rate among the 50 cities, according to Kids Count, an initiative of the Annie E. Casey Foundation. More recent city-only data was not available

Among Hamilton County residents, the number of teen births to 15- to 17-year-old mothers fell about 4 percent from 608 in 1998 to 582 in 2000, according to the most recent statistics available from the Ohio Department of Health. Cincinnati-only data was not available.

E-mail tbonfield@enquirer.com

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