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.

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. 

Autism Cases Identified Among Hispanic Children on the Rise, CDC Says

The Centers for Disease Control recently released a new study showing large increases in the number of Latino and black children identified with autism spectrum disorders. The study’s release coincided with Autism Awareness Month.

The CDC estimated that in 2008, about  1 in 88 American children had been diagnosed with autism, with boys five times as likely to be identified as girls. There were about 7.9 diagnosed cases per 1,000 Latino children. That’s still significantly less than the 12.0 cases per 1,000 of white children and 10.2 per 1,000 black children. But identification is increasing within the Hispanic community. Autism prevalence among Latino children (the number of 8-year-olds identified) increased by 110% between 2002 and 2008, compared with a 70% increase for white children.

Public schools are addressing the increase in different ways. In the past, many of these students would have attended private schools with public school district covering much of those costs. But now, to save money and comply with federal requirements that students be placed in the “least restrictive” environment, some of the students are placed in mainstream classrooms in public schools.  Teachers are also being trained on how to instruct such students.

The report notes that wide variation in prevalence among groups could be attributed to the level of awareness in communities and access to help, in addition to how the numbers are counted. Which raises the question, how much do Latino parents know about autism–especially those who don’t speak English? Does that contribute to a lower rate of identified cases within the group? The CDC urges that children need to be identified earlier, before they are even school-aged.

There are some efforts to increase early identification of Latino children. The Drexel Autism Center Hispanic Program in Philadelphia uses bilingual clinical psychology doctoral students to reach out to Hispanic families and conduct assessments. The program features testimonials on its web sites from families who are thankful for the Spanish-language help and discussions about the children’s condition.

The CDC study data is from the Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network. It is from 2008 data from 14 communities. In the study, Florida was the only location of the 14 sites where there was higher prevalence of autism among Hispanics compared with the other two groups. It would be interesting to further examine the differences in the Latino population in Florida versus other states that could explain the variation. In addition, New Jersey was the only site studied where prevalence was about the same among all three groups of children.

You can read the CDC community report  here, and if you scroll down you can see breakdown by the states studied.

In addition, a second study recently released in the journal Pediatrics examined more than 6,000 children with autism who are enrolled in California’s Department of Developmental Services. The study (reported on by The Huffington Post here) concluded that low-functioning children were more likely to have mothers who are not white, are foreign-born, less-educated, and who are on Medi-Cal (Medicaid). The high-functioning children with autism had mothers who were white, educated, and not on Medicaid.

“This is real social justice problem,” pediatrician Claire McCarthy of the Children’s Hospital Boston at Harvard Medical School wrote in the Huffington Post. “The researchers didn’t have information on what kinds of services or treatments the kids go, so they couldn’t give an explanation for what they found. But they guessed, as all of us might, that children with more educated and affluent mothers not only had better homes and neighborhood environments, but access to more and better services–and parents who were able to fight for those services.”

Reporters can gather a few questions from these studies. What are your local schools or districts doing to educate Latino parents about autism and how to screen their children? Does that outreach include Spanish-language efforts? The researchers are urging early identification, so it’s especially important to direct efforts at pre-school programs. So do those programs offer services for autistic students?