WASHINGTON – Baltimore had the highest percentage of teen births among the nation’s 50 largest cities in 2000, and the second-highest percentage of both low-birthweight babies and births to unmarried women, according to a new report.
“The Right Start for America’s Newborns: A Decade of City and State Trends” compared eight measures of child health in all states and in the nation’s 50 largest cities.
Baltimore did not finish higher than 32nd in any of those areas, and finished 40th or higher in five of the eight categories, as reported by Child Trends of Washington, D.C., and the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation. The two organizations compile the annual report using data from the National Center for Health Statistics.
Although Baltimore came in dead-last for its percentage of births to teens in 2000, the city has actually improved in that area over recent years. In 2000, 21.5 percent of babies born in the city had teen mothers, down from a high of 22.8 percent in 1997.
The percentage of births to teens, which grew from 1992 to 1997, has declined steadily since then.
City health officials did not return phone calls seeking comment on the report Thursday and officials with the Governor’s Council on Adolescent Pregnancy were not available for comment.
A spokeswoman for the state’s Office of Children, Youth and Families was reluctant to discuss the city’s numbers Thursday. Cleo Stamatos instead focused on the improvements, noting that teen birth rates around the state are declining overall.
The percentage of births to teens statewide in 2000 was 9.9 percent, good enough for Maryland to rank 11th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania were tied in 11th place in that category.
Maryland’s percentage was well below the national average of 11.8 percent of births to teens.
Maryland ranked 41st in the percentage of low-birthweight babies and 35th in the percentage of births to unmarried women, both categories where Baltimore finished 49th.
The other categories in the report included births to mothers with less than a high school education, where Maryland finished ninth and Baltimore finished 32nd; births to mothers who smoked during pregnancy, where Maryland was 10th and the city was also 32nd; and births to mothers who got late pre-natal care or no care, where the state was 18th and the city was 35th.
The report said Baltimore was 40th in the percentage of births to teens who were already mothers, while the state was 24th. Maryland was 39th for the percentage of premature babies, while the city was 46th.
Stamatos said the state hopes to maintain the momentum toward lower teen birth rates with a new campaign, “Imagine Your Future If You Wait to Have Sex,” which was unveiled in November. Instead of scaring teens, the new program encourages them to “set goals for their future,” Stamatos said.
“We need to focus on the positives that happen if you do wait,” she said.