LatinaLista -- The Bronx has been christened with a dubious new title -- home to the highest teen pregnancy rate of all of the five New York City boroughs. To top it off, Bronx teens don't just hold the teen pregnancy record for New York City but their rate of sexually transmitted infections is much higher than national averages -- 30 percent higher than the rate nationwide!
Those sad findings are but a hint of the discoveries in a new report released today titled Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Disparities: The Case of Youth Residing in the Bronx.
Unlike past reports that hold accountable the behavior of teens who find themselves facing unwanted pregnancies or suffering from sexually transmitted diseases, this report goes a step further in analyzing why the teen pregnancy rates would be so much higher among Bronx teens as compared to their peers, whether across town or across the nation.
It's a situation that shouldn't be since the percentage of Bronx high schoolers who have sex is the same as the national average. Furthermore, it's been documented that Bronx youth are more likely to practice safe sex by using a condom and don't usually take drugs or drink alcohol before having sex, as compared to their peers across the nation.
So, why do Bronx teens have such high teen pregnancy rates?
According to the authors of the report, Dr. Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, and social workers Jane Lee and Laryssa Husiak, all who work at the Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health (CLAFH) at the New York University Silver School of Social Work, there are unique outside factors that make Bronx teens more susceptible to risky behavior.
The Bronx is a region where racial and ethnic disparities and social and economic inequalities are apparent; 90 percent of its population is either Latino (53.5%) or African American (36.5%); over 31 percent of individuals are immigrants; and more than one in four families are living in poverty.
Basic needs, including quality health care, educational success, and public safety, are inadequately met. Bronx youth live in high poverty neighborhoods (and) have a greater
likelihood of dropping out of school and becoming pregnant as a teen.
Aside from the area's high poverty levels, researchers point to the low levels of education as a contributing factor to the high teen pregnancy rate as well.
The Bronx has a high school dropout rate (31 percent), more than double the national average (15 percent) creating a pool of young people with less schooling who are at risk for poor health outcomes.
Additionally, and perhaps the most indicative of all the factors, is that the Bronx has the highest rate of children placed in foster care among any of the five boroughs.
Children who have experienced violence, abuse, or neglect are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol, and are more likely to engage in sexual risk behavior and become pregnant as teens.
To combat these negative forces, and others, that are so prevalent in the lives of Bronx teens, the report's authors make a series of recommendations ranging from targeted funding of programs that address the sexual and reproductive health needs of the teens to ensuring accountability of the delivery and teaching of accurate sex education in the classroom while holding schools accountable for meeting the goals.
The report makes clear that just as there are a host of contributing factors that influence the risky behavior and its corresponding outcomes among Bronx teens, the only way to tackle the issue is through a variety of programs and strategies that share one goal -- ensuring teens have a clear path to a successful future.