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Arizona’s teen birth rate 5th highest in U.S.

Arizona had the fifth-highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation in 2006, trailing Mississippi, New Mexico, Texas and Arkansas, a new federal report says.

Arizona’s birth rate for mothers ages 15-19 was 62 births per 1,000 population, according to the report released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

The national teen birth rate in 2006 was 41.9.

Mississippi’s birth rate – the highest in the nation – was 68.4.

New Hampshire, with a rate of 19 per 1,000, was the nation’s lowest.

About 435,000 of the nation’s 4.3 million births in 2006 were to mothers ages 15 through 19. That was about 21,000 more teen births than in 2005.

More than a year ago, a preliminary report on the 2006 data revealed that the U.S. teen birth rate had risen for the first time in about 15 years.

The new numbers, though, provide the first state-by-state breakdown.

Arizona’s teen birth rate in 2006 was higher than in 2005, when the birth rate was 58.2, but lower than in 1991, when the rate was 79.7.

Since 1991, the teen birth rate in the United States has dropped 34 percent, the report states.

The birth rate for teens 15 to 17 years old in Arizona in 2006 was 34.4 per 1,000 population, sixth-highest in the nation.

The rate per 1,000 for teens 18-19 years old in Arizona was 108.7, fourth-highest in the nation, behind the Virgin Islands, Arkansas, Mississippi and Nevada.

The states with the highest birth rates for teens ages 15-19 have large proportions of black and Hispanic teenagers, groups that traditionally have higher birth rates, experts noted.

The lowest teen birth rates continue to be in New England, where three states have rates at roughly half the national average.

The new report is based on a review of all the birth certificates in 2006. Significant increases in teen birth rates were noted in 26 states, including Arizona.

“It’s pretty much across the board” nationally, said Brady Hamilton, a CDC statistician who worked on the report.

Some experts have blamed the national increase on increased federal funding for abstinence-only health education that does not teach teens how to use condoms and other contraception. They said that would explain why teen birth rate increases have been detected across much of the country and not just in a few spots.

There is debate about that, however. Some conservative organizations have argued that contraceptive-focused sex education is still common and that the new teen birth numbers reflect it is failing.

Other factors include the escalating cost of some types of birth control and their unavailability in some communities, said Stephanie Birch, who directs maternal and child health programs for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Glowing media portrayals of celebrity pregnancies don’t help, either, she said. “They make it out to be very glamorous,” said Birch, who cited a calculation by Alaska officials that teen births were up 6 percent in that state in 2006.

A variety of factors influence teen birth rates, including culture, poverty and racial demographics.

Staff writer Heidi Rowley contributed to this article.



The CDC report: www.cdc.gov/nchs

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