Addressing disparities in health outcomes is extremely important in order to achieve equitable care for everyone. Health disparities are linked to the social, economic and environmental disadvantages experienced by groups of people that can hinder access to adequate healthcare.
Health disparities are due to a wide variety of factors, often called determinants, such as race, sexuality, income, and residence. For example, people in rural areas may have fewer clinics that accept Medicaid when compared to urban centers, or Black and Latino neighborhoods may be less likely to have grocery stores with fresh produce when compared to white neighborhoods. These populations have obstacles to health which are often systemic in nature, and can be addressed through community work and policy change.
In Texas, the rates of teen pregnancy vary greatly based on many determinants, particularly race. The racial disparity of teen pregnancy rates in Texas has been documented and studied for years, as race plays a major role in the health and reproductive outcome of youth. According to 2019 Texas County data, Black and Hispanic teens have the highest rates of teen pregnancy, up to 133% higher than their white counterparts when looking at the overall state rates. The rates do vary county by county, but the general trend of disparities due to race and location are consistent throughout the data. When looking at the counties, it can be noted that only 1 county has a ‘critical’ (marked as red) rate of teen pregnancy for White youth, while 2 counties have critical rates for Hispanic youth and 4 counties show critical rates for Black youth.
The determinants of teen pregnancy are far more complex than simply race. Oftentimes, it is the intersections of race, income, residence and more that are responsible for these disparities, and these determinants influence each other. Poverty is often cyclical and disproportionately present in minority communities due to years of systemic, racist policy. Poverty is also a commonly used indicator for teen pregnancy, as residents of poorer counties tend to have less resources, less education attainment and greater instances of trauma. It is critical to acknowledge, and take action, to address the disparities present in healthcare, especially in reproductive health in Texas.