Friday, June 8, 2012

It’s a noteworthy fact that teen births in Baltimore City have dropped by 30% over the last three years. And while that’s certainly great news and something to get excited about, we can, and we must, do better.

Baltimore still has one of the highest teen birth rates of any major city in the United States. Approximately 1 in 6 births in Baltimore occurs to teen mothers—less than 20% of which are planned.

We can, and we must, do better.

Teen pregnancy, like many of our city’s pressing health challenges, is complicated by factors involving where we live, work, learn and play – the social determinants of health. Teen pregnancy rates remain highest in communities and neighborhoods with higher rates of poverty, unemployment and crime. And we know that historically, teen pregnancy disproportionally impacts minority communities, particularly African American and Latinos.

This is important because teen moms are less likely to graduate high school, and education is strongly associated with financial stability and security. So improving the health of our neighborhoods will be is critical to our success in reducing teen births.

We must sustain our recent gains if we are to meet our Healthy Baltimore 2015 goal of reducing the teen birth rate by 20%. That’s why this morning I had the privilege of joining Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in announcing a new campaign to prevent teen and unintended births.

Know What U Want removes several barriers teens face with getting accurate information about abstinence and birth control as options to avoid pregnancy. With this campaign, we are encouraging teens to consider the importance of family planning when making important life choices. The Mayor noted, “Know What U Want will help teens accomplish their personal goals and improve our birth outcomes by keeping our teens in school and on paths to being highly productive city residents.”
Know What U Want is founded upon the belief that teens and young adults are best equipped to make decisions when they have access to health information that is real, relevant, and resourceful.

We extremely thankful for the financial support we received from The Abell Foundation, The Straus Foundation, The David and Barbara B. Hirschhorn Foundation, and the Henry and Ruth Blaustine Rosenberg Foundation.

It’s our hope that will become a one-stop-shop where Baltimore teens and young adults can anonymously learn about abstinence, family planning, and available clinical services from a trustworthy source.

The Website also lists upcoming events. The fun starts in earnest next Saturday when city teens will spread “Know What You Want” through messages on Facebook, YouTube, and “tagging” public sidewalks with our U choose logo.

The chalk spray eventually will wash away with the rain. But we hope the message it imparts will last a lifetime. And that message is: Know what you want, and choose what’s right for you.