Study: Mississippi leads nation in teen births
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, February 20, 2001
The Associated Press
Tuesday, February 20, 2001
Newborns in Mississippi began life somewhat healthier
in the late 1990s than they did at the start of the decade, but
the state led the nation in the percentage of births to teenagers,
according to a new report.
In 1998, 20 percent of births in Mississippi were to teens,
compared with 12.5 percent nationally, according to ”The Right
Start” report being released Tuesday by the research firm Child
Trends and Kids Count, a project that produces an annual survey
on child well-being.
”It’s disappointing but not surprising,” said Jane Boykin,
president of the nonprofit Mississippi Forum on Children and Families
in Jackson. ”We’re making progress, it’s just that we have so
much progress to make up.”
Mississippi ranked worst among states in the percentage of
repeat teen births, births to unmarried women and pre-term births.
The state was above the national average in all eight categories
that researchers studied, but the numbers in five of those were
better in 1998 than they were eight years earlier.
Neighboring states Louisiana, Arkansas and Alabama joined Mississippi
near the bottom in several categories.
”We’re getting better, but we’re not closing the gap,” Boykin
said. ”We can’t solve these problems the way they’ve always been
solved. We’re going to have to get creative.”
Boykin said the state House of Representatives has passed legislation
that would make it easier for children to enroll in Medicaid and
CHIP, a state health insurance program. The measure is before
the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. She said the Legislature
also is considering measures to include dental health benefits
in the state’s Child Health Benefit Plan and to reauthorize the
Infant Mortality Task Force.
Boykin said increased access to preventive health care is central
to continued progress and healthier babies in Mississippi.
”It’s important to expand support services, particularly to
first-time and young parents,” she said. ”Every year about 40,000
new babies are born in Mississippi. Unless we take aggressive
action quickly, we’re adding problem births faster than we’re
The report says that many conditions related to birth are linked
to later developmental problems.
William O’Hare, who runs the Kids Count program at the Annie
E. Casey Foundation in Baltimore, said a report with ”reliable
statistical information on children often stimulates discussion
among state leaders regarding programs and policies to improve