Milwaukee teen pregnancy rate dropping

Milwaukee teen pregnancy rate decreasing faster than national and state average

CREATED Oct 3, 2012 - UPDATED: Oct 3, 2012

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MILWAUKEE - Teen pregnancy rates in Milwaukee have given the city a poor reputation on the national stage, but more awareness campaigns are starting to make a significant dent in those numbers.

"Teen pregnancy has been an issue in Milwaukee for decades, for generations actually," Vice President of United Way's Community Impact Nicole Angresano tells TODAY'S TMJ4's Jesse Ritka.

In 2006, Milwaukee ranked 2nd worst in the nation for teenage pregnancies.  That number helped drive the United Way and community members to take action.  "The silent way of doing things really wasn't working," Angresano explains.

They set a goal to try and drastically drop teen pregnancies in Milwaukee through messages now on display at more than 30 bus stops in the city.  The ads encourage parents to break the silence surround sex.  Posters display teens in high chairs, strollers and car seats with a uniform message stating "Your baby's not a baby anymore.  Talk to your teen about sex."

Reginald Guard didn't have that experience when he was growing up, "My father, he never really talked to me, I never really got anybody to talk to me about it, what I had to do was kind of learn on my own."  Which is why the campaign has parents like Guard optimistic for future generations, "Without a doubt it will, it will help."

And in the first five years of the campaign, it is helping.  Angresano says the change is obvious already, "We really are moving the needle, over 30% drop in the last 4 years alone, well on our way to meeting that goal of 46% reduction by 2015."  The hope is to help lower Milwaukee's teen pregnancy rate closer to Wisconsin's state rate, which is one of the lowest in the U.S.

And since the program began in 2006, Milwaukee's rate is falling faster than the state and national average.  But Angresano says they haven't achieved their goal yet and there's always room for improvement, "Parents may think that teens and kids don't want to talk to them about sex and I assure your there will be some eye rolling and some barriers put up, but this bears out in research over and over again, kids desperately want their parents to talk to them."

United Way does have a Family Communication Toolkit to help parents get the conversation started.  You can request one by filling out the form here.