Report: Latina Teen Pregnancy Rate is Falling

The teen birth rate for Latinas has fallen dramatically within the last few years, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Between 2007 and 2012, the teen birth rate for Latina teenagers ages 15 to 19 fell by 39 percent — the largest drop of any group. In 2012, there were 46.3 births per 1,000 Hispanic teens.

That’s still considerably higher than the average for all teenagers. The birth rate for all teenagers dropped by almost one-third, to 29.4 births per 1,000 teenagers ages 15 to 19.

In 2012, there were 305,420 babies born to teens ages 15 to 19. According to the study, that’s the fewest since the close of World War II.

Additionally, the teen birth rate fell by 7 percent between 2011 and 2012.

“The stunning turnaround in teen births is truly one of the nation’s great success stories of the past two decades,” Sarah Brown, CEO of The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, said in a news release. “Clearly, progress can and has been made on a pressing social problem that many once considered intractable and inevitable.”

– “Births: Preliminary Data for 2012,” National Vital Statistics Reports.

– “Teen Birth Rate Declines: What’s Going Right,” ABC/Univision.

– “Teen Birth Rate Declines Among Latinas in ‘Stunning Turnaround’,” Fox News Latino.

– “Teen Birth Rate Cut in Half,” The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.

CDC Says Pre-K Obesity Rate on Decline

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released some welcome news this week. Between 2008 and 2011, obesity rates declined among poor pre-school students in 19 states and U.S. territories.

Challenges remain. About one in six Hispanic preschool children and one in five black children between ages two and five are obese, according to the CDC. This compares with one in eight of all preschoolers.

California, the state with the largest Latino population, was one of the states that experienced a decline. The state’s obesity rate dropped from 17.3 percent to 16.8 percent. According to the Los Angeles Times, the FIrst 5 LA program has invested several million dollars on parks to combat the problem. Florida, New Mexico and New York also saw declines.

“We’ve seen isolated reports in the past that have had encouraging trends, but this is the first report to show many states with declining rates of obesity in our youngest children after literally decades of rising rates,” the CDC’s director, Tom Frieden, said, according to the  Times. “But the fight is far from over.”

As always there are caveats. Texas, which has a student population that is majority Hispanic and low income, was not included in the study. Colorado, which also has a sizable Latino population, experienced an increase in its obesity rate. Other states saw no change, including Nevada, Arizona and Illinois.

The CDC suggested that schools help combat the obesity rate by opening their athletic facilities and playgrounds when school is not in session so children have safe places in which to play and exercise.

Related Links:

– “Poor Children Show a Decline in Obesity Rate,” The New York Times.

– “Obesity Among Low-Income Preschoolers Drops Slightly,” Los Angeles Times. 

– CDC Vital Signs – Progress on Childhood Obesity: Many States Show Declines.

Report: Latino Children Need More “Active Spaces”

Many Latino children enjoy limited opportunities to engage in physical activity and exercise in their communities, according to a new study. That’s because they may not have nearby access to the proper facilities and safe “active spaces.”

This can negatively impact the ability of children to maintain a health weight, and could promote obesity.

The research is part of several recent and upcoming studies compiled by Salud America! The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) Research Network to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Children. The report was mostly based on surveys.

Such spaces include recreation centers, school gyms, athletic fields and playgrounds. According to the report, efforts to improve access often become stalled by concerns about costs related to staffing, maintenance and liability.

The study suggests shared-use agreements as one solution. These agreements can often take place between schools and cities. Safety also can be a key concern. For this reason the study suggests street improvements such as fixing sidewalks and adding bike lanes.

Often, such concerns can block schools from making their facilities open to the public outside of school hours — and in particular, liability is a top barrier.

According to the report, the obesity rate among Latino children is about 38 percent, compared with 29 percent for white children. Additionally a Census survey found Latino children were less likely than white children to say they had safe places to play in their neighborhoods.

Indeed, safety can be key. The study references another survey of residents of unincorporated colonias in Hidalgo County, Texas. The children noted that deterrents from outdoor activities included trash-filled streets, bad odors, playgrounds in poor conditions, stray dogs and gangs. Streets also lacked sidewalks and crosswalks.

The study noted that when asked, children requested more parks, recreation areas, basketball courts, street lights, and police.

The report lists several examples of successful shared use agreements in California. They include the Healthy High Desert program in Adelanto, California. The school district and city government partnered to create a park on an empty lot next to an elementary school.

Related Links:

– “Research: Latino Kids Lack Access to Safe ‘Active Spaces,'” Salud Today Blog. 

– “Using Shared Use Agreements and Street-Scale Improvements to Support Physical Activity among Latino Youths.”

– “Salud America! The RWJF Research Network to Prevent Obesity Among Latino Children.

Study Suggests Junk Food Ads Contribute to Latino Youth Obesity

Latino children view about 12 food and beverage television ads a day, says a study published in JAMA Pediatrics suggesting that such viewership could be related to high obesity rates among the group.

The researchers used Nielsen data on Spanish-language and English-language television viewership to conduct their study, which analyzed the viewing habits of children ages two to 17. In 2010, Hispanic preschoolers (ages 2 to 5) watched 4,218 ads, children (ages 6 to 11) watched 4,373, and adolescents (12 to 17) watched 4,542 ads.

“Given higher rates of obesity and overweight for Hispanic youth, it is important to understand the amount and types of food advertising they view,” said a team led by Frances Fleming-Milici of Yale University, according to a JAMA news release.

Hispanic children tend to watch fewer food ads than other children daily and Spanish-language television features fewer ads. However, about half of the food ads shown on Spanish television were for products such as fast food, candy and cereals.

In fact, Hispanic children and adolescents watched 14 percent and 24 percent fewer food ads than non-Hispanic youth.

But Hispanic preschoolers ages two to five were more likely to watch Spanish-language television, so they were exposed at an early age to a disproportionate number of ads for unhealthy foods. They also were exposed to the most Spanish-language food ads. They watched 1,038 Spanish food ads in 2010.

It’s important to point out that Hispanic children are underrepresented in pre-K programs, as compared with black and white children. Unfortunately, they may be watching more television in place of attending school.

“Although Hispanic children and adolescents see somewhat fewer of these ads, the higher obesity rates among Hispanic youth, the greater exposure by Hispanic preschoolers, and the potential enhanced effects of targeted advertising on Hispanic youth suggest that this exposure may pose additional risks for Hispanic youth,” the JAMA Pediatrics article said.

Related Links:

– “Junk Food Ads May Help Drive Obesity in Hispanic kids, Study Suggests,” US News and World Report/Health Day.

– “Study suggests link between food commercials and obesity in Latino youth,” 89.3 KPCC.

– “Amount of Hispanic Youth Exposure to Food and Beverage Advertising on Spanish- and English- Language Television,” JAMA Pediatrics.

Ads Promote Autism Awareness Among Latinos

A new ad campaign from the group Autism Speaks is reaching out to Latino and African-American parents to generate greater awareness about autism and encourage earlier identification.

The “Maybe”  PSA campaign includes TV and print ads in both English and Spanish. The ads outline key warning signs and behaviors a child with autism may exhibit, such as a preoccupation with objects and avoiding eye contact.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a study showing large increases in the number of Latino and black children identified as autistic. The CDC estimated that there were about 7.9 diagnosed cases of autism per 1,000 Latino children, an increase of 110% over 2002. Despite that increase, prevalence is much higher among white (12.0) and black (10.2) children. The report noted that the wide variation between groups could be attributed to awareness levels in the communities.

The average age of diagnosis is four to five years. But the average age of diagnosis is higher among Latino, black and low-income children.

“Earlier diagnosis [is] so important because if we can get a child by 2 years old, in most cases, with help that child can go to regular kindergarten,” Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks, told NBC Latino. “The window between 2-5 years old is the most important time to deal with treatment.”

Related Links:

– “Aiming Autism Ads at Hispanic and African-American Parents,” The New York Times.

– “Autism Cases Identified Among Hispanic Children on the Rise, CDC Says,” Latino Ed Beat.

– “Autism Speaks launches new campaign to reach Latino, black parents,” NBC Latino.

– “Prevalence of Austin Spectrum DIsorders in Hispanic and non-Hispanic White Children,” Pediatrics.

– Autism Speaks

CDC Study Finds Obesity Common Among L.A. Preschoolers

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that between 2003 and 2011, obesity rates among poor preschool-aged children in Los Angeles rose at one point to a high of 21 percent, according to a story by the Associated Press.

The study found that at the same time obesity rates among children in New York fell from 19 percent to 16 percent.

Sadly, the reason given for the higher rates in Los Angeles is that obesity rates among Mexican-American children are particularly high when compared with other groups, the AP reports.

The study found the obesity rate in LA was initially 17 percent, peaked to 21 percent in 2009, and then dropped to 20 percent.

The AP reported that researchers focused on three- and four-year olds who were enrolled in the WIC government program, which provides food vouchers to low income families. About 85 percent of children in the L.A. study were Hispanic, most of whom were Mexican-American. In New York, just 46 percent of the children studied were Hispanic, including not many Mexican-Americans.

According to the CDC, about 12 percent of all preschool-aged children are obese.

Related Links:

– “NYC Childhood Obesity Rate Lowers, As Los Angeles Numbers Rise: Study,” The Associated Press. 

Report Finds Federal Funding for ELLs Not Keeping Pace with Need

Federal funding of English language acquisition state grants is not keeping up with the pace of inflation, a new report has concluded.

The grants offer states and school districts help with developing curriculum and expanding teacher training for English language learners, among other things.

The “Children’s Budget 2012” report from the First Focus advocacy organization expresses concerns that President Obama’s fiscal year 2013 budget freezes funding for such programs at about $732 million. Although that funding level is the same as the previous year, the report concludes that it represents a roughly 2.2 percent funding decrease over the previous year when inflation is considered. Between 2008 and 2012, the highest funding level was in 2010, at about $750 million.

“Given that achievement gaps still persist between ELL and non-ELL students, leveling the funding fails to adequately meet the need of the rapidly growing ELL population,” the report says. “Therefore, as the President’s request misses an opportunity to move the nation closer to meeting the needs of these students and the schools serving them, a more significant investment remains essential.”

The study looks at federal investment in numerous programs that affect children, including education, housing, health, safety and child welfare. The president’s 2013 fiscal year budget would increase federal spending on programs affecting children by about one percent from the current level.

The news isn’t all negative: First Focus found that government spending on children increased by about 17.5 percent between 2008 and 2012 in real terms. Part of that increase is due to passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Related Links:

– “Children’s Budget 2012.” First Focus.

– Early Education Initiative. New America Foundation.

– “Kids Count 2012.” The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Kids Count Report Finds 32 Percent of Hispanic Children Live in Poverty

The annual Kids Count report by The Anne E. Casey Foundation finds that Latino children are significantly more likely than white children to live in poverty.

Hispanic children are also the least likely of any racial or ethnic group to attend preschool, are more likely than white or black children to lack health insurance and are the most likely of any group to be in a family where the household head lacks a high school diploma.

The report evaluates child well-being in every state and found that the two states with the largest population of Latino children rank near the bottom of the list of states. Texas is ranked 44th, and California, 41st.

The foundation says declines in child well-being can have dire consequences  for the United States’ future. In 2010,  32 percent of Hispanic children live in poverty, compared with 13 percent of white children, 38 percent of black children and 14 percent of Asian children. That year, a family of two adults and two children fell into the “poverty” category if their annual income was below $22,113–the federal definition varies based on family size.

“Millions of children are growing up with risk factors that predict that they will not succeed in the world they will inherit,” the report says. “And, if they don’t succeed, this country will become increasingly less able to compete and thrive in the global economy, thereby affecting the standard of living and the strength of our nation for all of us.”

Here are some other key data from the report on Latino children:

  • Between 2008 and 2010, about 63 percent of Hispanic children did not attend preschool. By comparison, about half of black and white children didn’t attend preschool.
  • In 2010, about 14 percent of Hispanic children lacked health insurance, compared with about 6 percent of white children and 7 percent of black children.
  • In 2010, about 37 percent of Latino children lived in families where the household head lacked a high school diploma, compared with 7 percent of white children and 15 percent of black children.
  • Between 2006-10, about 19 percent of Latino children lived in high-poverty areas, compared with 3 percent of white children and 27 percent of black children.
  • In 2010, about 41 percent of Hispanic children were living in single-parent households, compared with 24 percent of white children and 66 percent of black children.
  • In 2010, About 40 percent of Hispanic children’s parents lacked secure employment, compared with 25 percent of white children and 49 percent of black children.
  • In 2009, there were 70 teen births per 1,000 female Hispanic teens compared with 25 among white teens and 59 among black teens.
  • In 2011, about 82 percent of Hispanic children were not proficient in reading and 80 percent of eighth-graders were not proficient in math.
  • One bright spot was that  in 2009, Hispanic children were the least likely to be low-birth weight and were also below the national average. About 6.9 percent of babies were low birth-weight, compared with about 13.3 percent of black babies.

You can localize this story to your state, and community. Where is poverty growing, and how are school districts dealing with the increase and their changing student populations?

Related Links:

– “2012 KIDS COUNT Data Book: National and state-by-state data on key indicators of child well-being.” The Annie E. Casey Foundation.

– KIDS COUNT data by state. 

– “Child poverty on the rise.”  The Huffington Post.

– “Annual Study Finds Child Education, Health Improving.” Education Week.

Children of Immigrant Parents More Likely to Fall Behind in School Early

Children with immigrant parents are much more likely to live in poverty, lack health insurance and drop out of high school than children of U.S.-born parents, a recent study concluded.

The children face these challenges even though their parents’ employment rates are similar to those of American parents and they actually are more likely to live in two-parent homes.

The Foundation for Child Development in New York examined the gaps between the groups in a recent policy brief.

The children’s academic performance was also affected by their status as English language learners. According to the study, only about 7 percent of ELL students were proficient in reading in English by the end of third grade, compared with 37 percent of children who spoke English as a first language.

In addition, about 14 percent of ELLs were proficient in mathematics by the end of third grade, compared with 44 percent of children who spoke English as a first language.

“This is the canary in the coal mine for dropping out,” Richard Fry of the Pew Hispanic Center told the Wall Street Journal.

Children of immigrants from Mexico and Central America tend to fair the worst in education measures. Many of those parents don’t have an education beyond elementary school, and are unable to help their children with school work. Those parents also don’t know how to navigate the American school system.

The Journal spoke with Karen Arroyo, 14, a student at the Aspiring Centennial College Preparatory Academy in Los Angeles, about how her parents encouraged her to get a good education. “[R]ight now, my parents don’t know much about what I am doing because they didn’t go to high school,” she told the newspaper.

“Studies have found that those who are unable to read by the fourth grade are unlikely to ever catch up, and are  four times more likely to drop out of school,” the report’s author, Daniel Hernandez, said in a press release. “These data show us that our education system is failing nine out of ten Dual Language Learner students in the U.S., and even a substantial majority of children whose first language is English.”

The organization makes a number of policy recommendations, including the suggestion that the government must make greater investments in Pre-K programs, provide adequate funding for ELLs and expand programs that seek to improve the job skills of immigrant parents.

The other numbers in the report are broken down here:

–  30 percent of the children of immigrants live below the federal poverty level, compared with 19 percent of those born to non-immigrant parents

– 25 percent of the children of immigrant parents don’t graduate high school, compared with 18 percent of those born to non-immigrant parents

– 15 percent of children in immigrant families lack health insurance, compared with 8 percent of those of American-born parents

Related Links:

– “Children in Immigrant Families: Essential to America’s Future.” Foundation for Child Development.

– “Immigrant Children Lag Behind, Posing Risk.” Wall Street Journal.

– “American Children born to Immigrant parents trailing behind, new study finds.” New American Media. 

Hispanic Preschoolers Get Less Outdoor Play Time, Study Says

A new study has found that Latino preschoolers are less likely to be taken outside for playtime by their mothers than white children, HealthDay reports.

The study appearing in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine found that only about 51 percent of all children were receiving daily outdoor play that was supervised by their parents. Boys were given more play opportunities than girls.

Hispanic mothers were about 20 percent less likely than white mothers to give their children supervised play time. Researchers were troubled by the findings because of the important role of play in child development. “Being physically active is good for your brain, for your learning,” study research leader Pooja Tandon told ABC News. Tandon is a pediatrician with the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute.

The study was based on the activities of nearly 9,000 children born in 2001, who were followed through kindergarten. Their mothers were interviewed about the amount of play their children received at the age of 9 months, 2 years and 4 years.

Child psychologist Rahil Briggs told HealthDay that the study is concerning, especially considering high obesity rates among children today. “Parents need to change their thinking about outdoor play as a luxury that they can get in for their kids on a Saturday, to something along the lines of a necessity,” Briggs said. “We need to know that it has an important impact on our children’s physical health and also on their behavior development .”