In the United States, there are several vulnerable groups, a particular social group in a population who have increased susceptibility to adverse risks because they have inadequate or completely lack resources to help them overcome the challenges that come with such risks, have higher relative risk, and lower habit of seeking assistance (Bragg, 2003). As stated by Aday (2001), the vulnerable groups in the healthcare sector are more prominent due to the numerous challenges associated with health care matters in society.
He however singles out high-risk mothers and infants, pregnant teenage girls, chronically ill and the disabled, HIV/AIDS victims, mentally ill persons, suicide or homicide prone individuals, homeless persons, abusive families, and immigrants and refugees as the leading vulnerable groups by analyzing why they are vulnerable? What is the degree of vulnerability in terms of the relative effect on the population? Who pays for their health care? What are the existing and the needed programs? (Aday, 2001). In this research, I have however identified teen pregnancy in Mississippi as a serious challenge in the health care provision, mainly due to the recent report on the demographic increase and prevalence in the past few years.
Initially, I mainly associated teenage pregnancy with only a particular section of the community. I have always regarded the population in Mississippi to be less civilized hence the reason why they are highly affected by all the ills associated with teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STI) like high school dropouts. I always considered that they lacked seriousness with their own lives, thus lack of care in terms of handling themselves responsibly in the process of sexual intercourse.
Generally, I felt that those who aborted were irresponsible teenagers who did not want to take care of the product of their careless behavior. However, after the study of different literature as concerns teen pregnancy, I noticed that quite a number of these people had lacked much of what I enjoyed as a teenager. After studying the report by the CDC and other literature, I came to notice that teenage pregnancy has increased virtually across the board all over the United States, signifying that it is a national problem rather than a regional problem.
The only main variance was in the level of impact that is giving more affluent people in the rich states high power and ability to deal with the menace as compared to those less endowed populations in states like Mississippi. The review of birth certificates in the entire United States revealed that there was a significant increase in the teenage birth rates in 26 states, as a CDC statistician, Brady Hamilton puts it, “It’s pretty much across the board nationally” (sic) (CDC, 2009)
According to Abma et al. (2004), 46% of teens between 15 and 19-year olds in the United States have had sex at least once, with data indicating that most of them had first sexual intercourse at the age of 17, but do not marry until they reach the mid or late 20s, a fact that exposes them to the possibility of getting unwanted pregnancy as well as sexually transmitted diseases. Another worrying fact is that a sexually active teen who indulges in sexual intercourse without contraceptive use has a higher probability (90%) of becoming pregnant in a year (Harlap et al. 1991) and that 11% of all births in the United States occur to teens (Luckett & Thompson, 1999).
The State of Mississippi is currently a toping list of states with the highest teenage pregnancies and birth rate in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention Report (2009), there were 68 teenage births per 1000 births in Mississippi, followed by 64, and 63 per 1000 in New Mexico and Texas respectively. According to this report, there are a larger proportion of vulnerable blacks and Hispanic teenagers in these three states, who traditionally have been experiencing higher birth rates.
In Mississippi, persons under the age of 18 accounted for 26.3% as compared to United States’ overall 24.5% in 1997, with black person’s population accounting for 37.2%, a considerably larger population as compared to other states (CDC, 2009). Several reports also show that this problem is compounded by the fact that this population is susceptible because they are poor, thus the inability to afford that escalating birth control costs and the traditional cultural beliefs among the population that shuns away sex education (Bragg, 2003).
This research on teenage pregnancy has dramatically changed my perception of the issue. I came to notice that understanding the cultural values of a community is very important when dealing with the teenage pregnancy problem. As a health care professional, one should be very much equipped with the facts on the cultural information of the community he or she intends to serve to avoid conflicts and misunderstanding, hence be prepared to effectively work with people from different races, ethnics, and cultural diversity (Abma et al., 2004).
Stereotyping, bias and discrimination will easily aggravate the already existing disparities, thus affecting the vulnerable groups especially among the racial and ethnic minority, who happen to be poverty-stricken more than another group in the United States, hence “implicit attitudes, unconscious biases, prejudice, and racism adversely affect the relationship between service providers and their clients (Abma et al., 2004).
Since findings have suggested that cultural values, attitudes, beliefs, and comprehensive knowledge about health and sexuality vary considerably among the teens across cultural groups, the process of intervention must vary considerably too much the needs of the individual population (Abma et al., 2004). It is, therefore, clear that one approach to prevent pregnancy among the teens, if successful in one area will not automatically fit to be applied in other areas due to variance in cultural needs.
Self-awareness knowledge is very important in health care provision in that it is likely to promote teenage pregnancy intervention. By knowing how a particular community approaches and views health and teen pregnancy, in particular, the health care provider can develop a proper curriculum, and develop a good and effective structure for media campaigns. This knowledge is also important since it would help in the community needs assessment process and to note the cultural changes that may have occurred with time i.e. by assessing the impact of the programs and looking at how the community members and especially the youth view the health care provider will either lead to its success or failure.
There is also the likelihood of adopting a more sustainable approach to teen pregnancy control in Mississippi and beyond since the teenagers will easily identify with a health provider who knows their value rather than assume their concerns, as described by Abma et al.( 2004) who says that effective communication between the teenagers and health care provider is “key to providing culturally responsive services” because the youth will easily identify with them about gender, age, sexual orientation, and religion.
This will create a sense of care within the youths hence considering the program as their own rather than an imposture. This will consequently change the perception of the teenagers who hide and refuse to reveal information about their sexuality to the healthcare providers or people who may be of help, hence leading to the high probability of success the programs to contain teen pregnancy not only in Mississippi but the United States in general.
Aday, L. 2001. At risk in America: the health and health care needs of vulnerable populations in the United States. 2d ed. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers. P. 372.
Abma, J. et al. 2004. Teenagers in the United States: sexual activity, contraceptive use, and childbearing, Vital and Health Statistics, Series 23, No. 24.
Bragg, S. 2003. The Application of a Vulnerable Population’s Conceptual Model to Rural Health. Journal of Public Health Nursing. 20 (6): 440-48.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention. 2009. By the Numbers: the public costs of teen childbearing. Science Says Research Brief. Web.
Harlap, S., Kost, K., & Forrest, J.1991. Preventing pregnancy, protecting health: a new look at birth control choices in the United States, New York: AGI.
Luckett M., Thompson F. 1999. The Effects of Early Childbearing on Schooling Over Time, Journal of the Mississippi State Medical Association, 40(4):115-7.