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BACKGROUND: Teenage pregnancy has negative consequences for mother and baby, for example, high school drop out and low birth weight, respectively. Overall, Connecticut (CT) has one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the United States. However, a great disparity exists between whites and other ethnicities. Black teens are 4 – 5 times as likely to give birth than their white counterparts and Latino teens are 8 times as likely to give birth as white teens. Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE) has identified this disparity and seeks the assistance of our research team in developing targets and programming to prevent teen pregnancies.

METHODS: Teen focus groups and key informant interviews were used to examine barriers to teen birth reduction among ethnic minorities in three cities (Hartford, New London, and New Haven, CT). We develop ed an action plan for PPSNE that identifies potential barriers to preventing teenage pregnancy, identifies potential community partnerships , and includes population attributable risk estimation s to demonstrate potential decreases in teen pregnancy by race/ethnicity.

RESULTS: Three focus group sessions were completed with a total of 22 adolescent participants (14 females and 8 males) between the ages of 15 and 21. Focus group respondents attributed teen pregnancy to desire for pregnancy, perceived invincibility, lack of knowledge/sexual education and family precedent. The teens indicated that a more substantial presence from peer educators and improved sex education in schools could have an impact on reducing teen pregnancy in minorities. Two key informant interviews with community organization staff members revealed overlapping themes of inadequate education, inadequate support to stay in school, and lack of support for pregnancy prevention programs. Overall, respondents had positive perceptions of Planned Parenthood.

IMPLICATIONS: Results from this research will provide information to PPSNE regarding the necessary steps to design programs aimed at reducing disparities in teen birth rates in Connecticut. By focusing on Black and Latino teens, we hope to facilitate the development of culturally competent initiatives that result in the elimination of disparities surrounding teen births. Partnership development between PPSNE and community organizations can foster successful and sustainable programs in our populations of interest.

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Community Health and Preventive Medicine

Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Teenage Pregnancy: Perspectives from Teens and Community Members in Connecticut