AUSTIN (KXAN) — Recent research from the Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department (HHSD) show an alarming trend in teenagers having babies.
“When you look at the overall numbers, it looks like teen births are going down. However, when you start to focus in our community, it continues to be a challenge specifically in the Latino community,” explains Dr. Rosamaria Murillo the assistant director of the Health and Human Services Department.
The county-wide research shows Hispanic teens are seven times more likely than their white counterparts to give birth. Dr. Murillo says there are many variables contributing to birth rates for Latino youth, “research tells us that this issue is multifactorial with different perspectives. Some attribute the high rates of teen births to Latino culture and religion, others attribute it to poverty or limited access to health and prevention services. Others connect it to youth’s needs to feel valued and loved.”
The HHSD is working with several agencies to better understand the issue.
Dr. Murillo points to a video the department shows Austin teens in an effort to recruit teens into becoming “peer educators.” The goal is to get teenagers talking about the issue and prevention.
“The issue is not that one girl that got pregnant, this is an issue that is more complex. When working with young women and young men, we talk about decision making, we talk about communication, ways to prevent pregnancy with always the intent of choice. You have a choice. Empowerment is a huge issue for us when working with youth,” says Dr. Murillo.
The department is also working with families, health and social service providers, schools and the community in zipcodes with the most challenging numbers of teen birth rates.
Dr. Murillo says teen pregnancy is nothing new but the concern doesn’t seem to be going away. She adds, ” there is a link between poverty and teen pregnancy. There is a link between education and teen pregnancy. There is a link to access to health services and teen pregnancy. There are many links and factors contributing to teen pregnancy and teen births.”
While the statistics are troubling , Dr. Murillo sees a chance to change lives with this reearch. “I’m a Latina that came from the El Paso projects. I don’t see it in terms of sad or happy. I see it in terms of powerful assets in this community. I grew up with social workers coming to my house and they saw potential in my family and myself. The work I do is from that lens. I don’t see the sadness. I see amazing young women or men who can produce all sorts of great things for our nation.”Learn more here.