By Jessica Rios, Health and Fitness Partnership Manager for SA2020
There is a story unfolding in our community right now that involves some praise-worthy community collaboration, and the hopes and dreams of local teens. Sounds pretty awesome, right?
The first part of the story is one you probably know by now:
In 2010, the San Antonio community came together to decide what we wanted the future of our city to look like in the year 2020. We created visions, and set specific targets for success.
One of those targets was to lower the teen birth rate in San Antonio by 15%.
This is a significant goal, because we know things like:
- Nationally, nearly three in 10 girls will get pregnant at least once before they turn 20.
- For some people, that risk is much higher. 45 percent of African-American teen girls and 40 percent of Latinas will have a pregnancy before they turn 20. A teen girl in foster care is 2.5 times more likely to become pregnant by age 19.
- 30 percent of teen girls who have dropped out of high school cite pregnancy/parenthood as a key reason. Only 40 percent of teen mothers finish high school, and less than two percent of those girls earn a college degree by age 30. (Source: The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy)
Teen pregnancy is an issue intimately connected to other SA2020 goals, like reducing poverty, improving health and education, and strengthening the economic competitiveness of our community. Tackling these goals is extremely important, and not at all easy.
The next part of the story you may have already heard, but it’s worth re-telling.
In response to this goal, a new collaborative group was created entirely for the purpose of lowering the teen birth rate. An impressive list of San Antonio organizations—including Healthy Futures of Texas, UT Teen Health, Baptist Child and Family, SA2020, the UT School of Public Health, Girls Inc. of San Antonio, Martinez Street Women’s Center, San Antonio Youth for Christ and Metro Health—made a commitment to work together to solve this problem. Thus, the San Antonio Teen Pregnancy Prevention Collaborative (SATPPC) was born.
Together, they asked tough questions about the teen pregnancy rate in San Antonio. Together, they identified fundamental issues like a lack of basic education, a lack of afterschool programs, and a lack of child-parent communication.
The next question they faced was a little tougher: how could they work together to fix these problems?
“The SATPPC is a remarkable collaborative. Both faith-based and non-faith-based organizations have rallied together toward reducing teen pregnancy,” Mario Martinez said recently in an interview. Mario is the Program Manager for the City’s Metro Health Project WORTH Program, the backbone organization of SATPPC.
To overcome the potential differences in organizational values, each organization placed their focus on the end goal.
“Each organization was as important as the next, and each had a specific role in reducing the teen pregnancy rate,” said Martinez.
As a group, they agreed that there was a need for evidence-based programs that focused on providing education to the community. So, they started their collective efforts by focusing on how to help the community understand evidence-based programs, and encouraging other organizations to adopt them. They followed a Collective Impact model, defining mutually reinforcing strategies and using consistent measures to evaluate progress.
“We talked to school districts, youth agencies and looked at any opportunity to engage the community as a whole,” Martinez said. Over two years, the SATPPC helped implement these evidence-based programs throughout the community.
This next part is our favorite part of the story.
In June of 2013, when SA2020 released the first Progress Report on our ambitious list of targets, we faced some astounding results. As a community, we had already reached and surpassed the original goal to reduce teen pregnancy – down more than 15% between 2010 and 2012.
These results are definitely celebration-worthy. In numbers, that’s 543 fewer teen births than in the two years prior. In dollars, that’s about $10.9 million to the taxpayer in health care costs that didn’t need to be spent.
However, as we celebrate, we also have to remain ambitious. Even with this success, San Antonio still has a teen birth rate that is 46 percent above the national average.
So, in true San Antonio fashion, we set our sights even higher. This is why we’ve set an even greater target: reducing the teen pregnancy rate in San Antonio by 25% by the year 2020. Last year, the SATPPC reached a total of 4,600 teens with effective programs, and they are currently on track to meet and surpass this year’s goal.
Yesterday was the National Day to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, part of a nationwide campaign to extend educational tools to communities across the country. For one day, the SAPTTC turned a room in the Central Library into a gallery, showcasing the artwork of San Antonio teens inspired by their personal dreams and their vision of a San Antonio that has reached its goal. Their art depicted dreams of college, of careers, of lives lived with intention and action that benefits both themselves and their community.
When we work together, we are stronger—the work of the SATPPC has proven that. Together, we can reach the goal of reducing the teen pregnancy rate in San Antonio by 25% by the year 2020. Together, we can help re-write the ending of this story for hundreds of San Antonio teens—we can help them keep their dreams for the future as big as our community’s.