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Last Updated: Friday, 21 July 2006, 11:11 GMT 12:11 UK
Black teen pregnancies 'warning'
Teenage mother with her baby
The teen pregnancy rate is falling
Black teenagers need to be targeted to reduce the high number of pregnancies, the government says.

Ministers have asked council and health chiefs in England to target black and mixed race Caribbean youngsters.

Even when social deprivation was taken into account, black girls were still over-represented in the numbers of teenage pregnancies.

The government said the local agencies needed to adopt sensitive, culturally appropriate ways to cut the rate.

Data on teenage pregnancies by ethnic group is hard to come by as it is not recorded at birth registration, the government's latest guidance on teenage pregnancy said.

Teenage pregnancy is a complex issue, but we have the solutions
Gill Frances, of the Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy

However, 2001 census data has showed that rates of teenage motherhood are significantly higher among mothers of mixed white and black Caribbean, other black and black Caribbean ethnicity than other groups.

And in 2004, black ethnic groups accounted for 9% of all under 18 abortions despite representing just 3% of the population.

Research has suggested black Caribbean and black African teenagers were more likely to have sex before 16, while contraceptive use in London was lower than average the first time 16 and 18-year-olds had sex.

As well as tackling this, the guidance said the councils and local health organisations which had had the biggest impact on teenage pregnancy given sex education a high priority in schools.

It also said the best-performing areas were actively engaging health, education, social services and the voluntary sector and had a "strong senior champion" accountable for the drive.

In a letter to council and primary care trust chief executives, Children's Minister Beverley Hughes and Public Health Minister Caroline Flint said teenage pregnancy levels were at their lowest since the mid 1980s.


However, they warned conception rates were still the highest in western Europe and while some areas had reduced the rates by over 40% since the strategy was launched in 1999, others had seen it increase by over 40%.

The letter said cutting teenage pregnancy was key to helping tackle poverty and reduce inequality.

"Teenage pregnancy is strongly associated with poor outcomes for both young parents and their children.

"It contributes to the transmission of poverty, inequality and low aspirations between generations."

Gill Frances, chairman of the Independent Advisory Group on Teenage Pregnancy, said the new government guidance was extremely positive.

"Teenage pregnancy is a complex issue, but we have the solutions. The work is producing results and we currently have the lowest teenage pregnancy rate in 20 years."

A spokesman for the Black Health Agency added: "It is recognised that young black people have problems accessing sex education and contraceptive services.

"This is because they are not culturally appropriate. Too often agencies do not employ people from these communities and do not research what their needs are.

"This guidance is welcome."

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