Alderman Joins Front Lines in Teen Pregnancy Fight

Ald. Murphy is part of a new proactive outreach effort that aims to stem the city's abominably high teen pregnancy rate.

The alderman is a member of the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Oversight Committee, established by the United Way of Greater Milwaukee. The 33-member committee, which includes leaders from business, education, health care, government and social services, will address the high teen birth rate in Milwaukee and create a public awareness campaign.

Milwaukee has the 6th worst teen birth rate among the 50 largest U.S. cities, surpassing Atlanta, Chicago, Kansas City and Los Angeles. In 2004, 16.9% of all births in Milwaukee were to females under 20. This has led to a less skilled labor pool, which results in fewer new businesses locating in metropolitan Milwaukee.

The high teen birth rate also contributes to higher health care costs. Each teen pregnancy in Milwaukee costs on average $79,320 in long-term costs. In Wisconsin, Medicaid covers 85 percent of teen births, and reimburses hospitals for about 65 percent of the actual cost of inpatient services. The gap between what the government pays and the actual cost drives up insurance premium rates, and strains the state's Medicaid budget.

Poverty, a lack of education and sexual abuse are also interconnected in this complex issue. Milwaukee has the 4th highest rate of children under 18 living in poverty. Only about 30% of teen mothers graduate from high school. Between half and two-thirds of teen mothers report being sexually molested prior to their first pregnancy.

The task force's awareness campaign will include billboards, radio and television ads and flyers. They are also considering creating a collaborative fund to better support prevention efforts, develop an outcome tracking mechanism and develop an annual forum to report on the progress of the various efforts.

"This is a serious issue in Milwaukee," Ald. Murphy said. "High teen birth rates cripple the city's ability to attract new businesses and reflect a lack of proper care for our youth. I am committed to making the city aware of this issue and working collaboratively to help resolve it."


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