Teen Pregnancy Prevention

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative Surpasses Goal Three Years Early

Teen pregnancy rates have dropped 50% in Milwaukee since 2006, shattering the goal set by the United Way of Greater Milwaukee-led Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative in 2008. At the time, the goal – reduce teen pregnancy rates by 46% by 2015 – was considered one of the most ambitious goals ever set in the nation. The initiative’s success is attributed to an all-hands-on-deck approach adopted by the community, which has been honored nationally as a model for other cities. The effort included the use of several controversial public awareness campaigns designed to show teens how getting pregnant negatively affects both young men and young women.

The latest campaign is delivering a strong message to parents– if you’re not talking to teens about sex, someone else is. It features an interactive YouTube quiz and website GetTheSexFacts.com and heavy social media promotion on Facebook and Twitter. The videos depict popular myths that have been circulating through schools for years. Bus shelter ads and a television public service announcement are also part of the campaign. Teens and their parents are encouraged to contribute to the discussion using the hashtag #SexMyths.


The Issue

Teen pregnancy profoundly, and in most cases negatively, affects the lives of those involved while costing the community millions of dollars through direct care, ancillary services, and the overall drain on the workforce.  Most alarming is the connection between Milwaukee's teen pregnancy epidemic and vicious, cyclical poverty.

Milwaukee has had one of the nation's highest rates of births to teens for decades.  As a community, we are addressing it.  And we are seeing real results.

Teen Pregnancy Statistics

  • The long-term cost of a Milwaukee teen having one baby is estimated at $79,320.
  • Girls born to teen mothers are 83% more likely to become teen mothers.
  • Children of teen mothers are much more likely to drop out of high school prior to graduation.
  • In Wisconsin, 71% of babies born to teen girls are fathered by males over 20 years old - in 20% of the cases the fathers are at least six years older.

Outcomes and Results

In early 2008, the citywide Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative, led by United Way of Greater Milwaukee, set an ambitious goal: To reduce the teen birth rate in the city of Milwaukee by 46% by 2015. On October 22, 2013, United Way and Mayor Tom Barrett announced that it had met – and surpassed – its goal, three years early.

City of Milwaukee Health Department data show that in 2012 there were 25.7 births per 1,000 females ages 15 to 17, a 50% decrease from the 52.0 births per 1,000 females recorded in 2006. The City of Milwaukee Health Department credits United Way and the communitywide Teen Pregnancy Prevention Oversight Committee's strategic, focused approach for the unprecedented success.

National Recognition
The successful initiative has now become a national model for community collaboration. The Initiative has been recognized by United Way Worldwide, Mutual of America and the White House Council for Community Solutions as an example of the impact that can occur when communities work in collaboration.

Our Work

Since 2006, this community has invested significant resources and human capital to aggressively combat the teen pregnancy epidemic.  United Way of Greater Milwaukee is spearheading these community-wide, collaborative efforts to bring the issue to the forefront of public attention and change the historically high rate of teen births.  Despite the hard work and dedication by many individuals and organizations, past efforts have not been successful.  To ensure we address the teen pregnancy crisis, United Way:

  • Sponsored and authored the comprehensive report If Truth be Told with the community-wide Teen Pregnancy Prevention Oversight Committee to work in collaboration with agencies and community leaders.
  • Set an aggressive, public goal to reduce births to 15 to 17 year olds by 46% by 2015.  All work of the collaborative aims to reach this goal.
  • A 5 year If Truth Be Told progress report was released in May, 2011.  Watch the video highlighting the progress we have made in reaching our goal and a Milwaukee family who is successfully winning the battle against teen pregnancy.
  • Invests in programs through the Healthy Girls project that helps youths to understand the consequences of teen pregnancy while also teaching them the skills needed to cope with social pressures, with the goal of delaying sexual activity and avoiding becoming pregnant.
  • Acts as a convener, bringing together a cross-section of Greater Milwaukee with representatives from business, government, education, the medical field, the faith community, law enforcement and other nonprofits.  The focused, cumulative efforts of everyone at the table are leading to measurable results.  These efforts are highlighted below.
  • Engaged Medical College of Wisconsin and Children's Hospital of Wisconsin residents to develop content for a youth-focused, resourceful website, www.babycanwait.com, with medically accurate and age-appropriate content on preventing pregnancy and promoting healthy relationships.

United Way-led Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative

Teen Pregnancy Prevention Oversight Committee:  Volunteers continue to lead the charge to keep this issue front and center in the community.

Community Based Organizations and Programs:  Healthy Girls programs, implement evidence-based programming to prevent teen pregnancy and sexual violence.  In 2011, United Way is funding 15 programs for a total of $631,000 - the largest annual investment to date.

Colleges and Universities:  United Way continues its collaboration with the University of Wisconsin Center for Urban Population Health to facilitate the Healthy Girls data project.  In addition, United Way serves as an intern placement site, and for the first time is hosting a Wisconsin Population Health Services Fellow whose primary responsibilities are in the area of healthy birth outcomes.

Local Media:  United Way continues its public awareness campaign with SERVE Marketing.  The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel keeps teen pregnancy on the front burner and continues to focus on the issue.  Other media partners, like ClearChannel Outdoor, Marcus Theaters, CW18 and My 24, ensure the messages reach the community.

The Faith Community:  Volunteers, representing many faiths, are working toward increasing the dialogue and capacity among religious institutions to directly impact the issue of teen pregnancy.  To date, over 40 adults have been trained as facilitators of "Keeping it Real", a faith-based sexual health curriculum.  In September 2011, United Way and Christ the King hosted a facilitator training - 14 more adults are now ready to implement the curriculum in four places of worship.  Over 85 local teens have already graduated from the eight-week, intensive curriculum.

Collaborative Fund: In March of 2006, the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Advisory Committee released its results at the United Way Women’s Initiative luncheon in the report If Truth be Told: Teen Pregnancy, Public Health and the Cycle of Poverty. This report resulted in nine core recommendations, including creating a collaborative funding strategy to create a strategic and effective community response to teen pregnancy.

The Collaborative Fund committee supports programming that would enable us to reach an aggressive but achievable goal of reducing births to teens by 46% by the year 2015.  In spring 2009, the inaugural Collaborative Fund launched with six members:  Brico Fund, Faye McBeath Foundation, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Johnson Controls, Inc. Foundation, Rockwell Automation Foundation, and United Way of Greater Milwaukee, each of whom contributed $50,000-$75,000.   To date, over $300,000 new dollars have been invested in community programs that address teen pregnacny and sexual violence prevention.

In 2011, we are delighted to have two additional partners join the Fund:  The Daniel M. Soref Charitable Trust and Aurora Health Care Foundation.   We believe their experience and commitment will enhance our understanding of this complex issue and increase our capacity to positively impact the community.

Milwaukee Public Schools (MPS):  United Way worked with MPS and other community leaders to revise human growth and development (HGD) curriculum.  Community members were given an opportunity to review the materials and make suggestions about content.  Between 2009-11, fourth- and fifth-grade teachers received training in the new HGD curriculum.  This training was supported by a grant from United Way.  The goal is to have consistent and thorough implementation at all grade levels by 2012.

United Way Women's Leadership:  Members of United Way's Women's Leadership Program continue to turn their concern into action.  Because of the generosity and strength of these women, United Way is able to support and grow the critical work of this initiative.  In 2010, United Way Healthy Girls funding increased nearly $100,000 over 2009 ($614,000 vs. $525,000) because of the money this group raised.  United Way of Greater Milwaukee's total Healthy Girls investment to date is over $4 million.


Aurora logoThe Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative through Healthy Girls is sponsored by Aurora Health Care through the Healthy Girls Challenge Grant.

©2014 United Way of Greater Milwaukee