Changes in Adolescent Birth Rates within Appalachian Subregions and Non-Appalachian Counties in the United States, 2012-2018

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Journal of Appalachian health


BACKGROUND: Adolescent births are associated with numerous challenges. While adolescent birth rates have declined across the U.S., disparities persist, and little is known about the extent to which broader declines are seen within Appalachia. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to examine the extent to which adolescent birth rates have declined across the subregions of Appalachia relative to non-Appalachia. METHODS: We conducted a retrospective study of adolescent birth rates between 2012 and 2018 using county-level vital records data. Differences were examined across the subregions of Appalachia and among non-Appalachian counties. Multiple regression models were used to examine changes in the rate of decline over time, adjusting for additional covariates of relevance. RESULTS: About 13.4% of all counties in the U.S. are within the Appalachian region. The rate of adolescent births decreased by 12.6 adolescent births per 1,000 females between 2012 and 2018 across the U.S. While all regions experienced declines in the rate of adolescent births, Central Appalachia had the largest reduction in adolescent births (18.5 per 1,000 females), which was also noted in the adjusted models when compared to the counties of non-Appalachia (b= -5.78, CI: -9.58, -1.97). Rates of adolescent birth were markedly higher in counties considered among the most socially and economically vulnerable. IMPLICATIONS: This study demonstrates that the rates of adolescent births vary across the subregions of Appalachia but have declined proportional to rates in non-Appalachia. While adolescent birth rates remain higher in select subregions of Appalachia compared to non-Appalachia, the gap has narrowed considerably.

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