A national poll found the majority of Latinos think preventing teen pregnancy and providing sex education to teens is a top priority. (Photo/Getty Images)

Strong Latino support for sex education and birth control, says new poll

Nine out of ten Hispanics think sex education should be taught in the nation’s high schools and middle schools, and almost 90 percent say teen pregnancy prevention is as important as doing well in school, says a  new national poll of over 1,000 Latinos over the age of 18.  Moreover, more than half of those polled thought avoiding teen pregnancy is even  more important for Latino teens than other groups.

“There is overwhelming support for comprehensive sex education,” said Dr. Vincent Guilamo-Ramos, professor and co-director of NYU’s Center for Latino Adolescent and Family Health, in a conference call to discuss the poll’s findings. The NYU center and Planned Parenthood Federation of America, (PPFA) commissioned the poll.

“What we found was a broad agreement that teen pregnancy needs to be addressed, and the ways in which it can be done,” said Guilamo-Ramos.  Ninety-six percent of Latinos polled thought that high school students should be taught about sexually transmitted diseases, and around 91 percent thought birth control and abstinence should be taught also.  The poll, which included a broad cross-section of Spanish-speaking and English-speaking families, also found that almost 87 percent of Latinos felt parents should do more to address the issue, as well as schools (78 percent), media (63 percent), religious groups (61 percent) and the government (68 percent).

Teen pregnancies among Hispanic young women have declined sharply. From 2007 to 2011, Latina teen pregnancy rates went down by 34 percent, according to the CDC. Yet despite progress, four in ten Latinas will experience one pregnancy before age twenty, said Leslie Kantor, vice president of education at Planned Parenthood Federation of America.  In addition, Latina teens are 1.5 times more likely than white non-Hispanic teens to have a repeat birth.

One-third of those polled think Latino teens have less access to birth control than other Americans, and over 45 percent say Hispanic teens have less access to health care than most Americans.

Eric Ferrero, Vice President of Communications at PPFA, said the implementation of the Affordable Care Act will be “transformative” in increasing access to health insurance — as well as birth control.  It is estimated that 9 million Hispanics will gain insurance access through the ACA. Yet while access to contraception without co-pays is part of the new health plan, one-third of Latinos polled were not sure how their access to health care would change under the ACA.

Planned Parenthood is launching an awareness campaign on the Affordable Care Act starting in the summer, in preparation for October, when health care exchanges are implemented as part of the legislation.

Access to birth control does make a difference, according to PPFA’s Leslie Kantor.  According to a recent Guttmacher Institute study, 100 percent of the decline in teen pregnancies among 18 to 19-year-olds and 75 percent of the decline among 15 to 17-year-olds was due to more effective use of birth control.

Next month is National Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month.  MTV television personality Rocsi Diaz, a Planned Parenthood ambassador, said it is important to generate awareness and information for Latino teens.

“It is important to give them the tools to realize their potential,” said Diaz.

RELATED: Study: Teen birth rates among Latinas falls to new low

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