This report details the sexual health of Minnesota’s youth. Teen pregnancy and birth rates are at historic lows. From 1990 to 2017, the teen pregnancy rate among 15 to 19 year-olds decreased 72%. The teen birth rate decreased nearly 67% in that same period. Young people should be commended for making wise and safe choices about their sexual health. However, despite the improvements, many challenges remain. Sexually transmitted infections are at an all-time high. Disparities by geography, race/ethnicity, and experiences with the juvenile corrections system and homelessness persist.
In response to the data outlined in this report, the following are recommendations from University of Minnesota Healthy Youth Development • Prevention Research Center (PRC).
• Adolescent sexual health comprises much more than the absence of pregnancy, early childbearing, or infection. To fully support young people’s health, we need to address their physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development, and give them skills and supports to navigate their teen years.
• Sexual health disparities persist. We must assure that programs and services meet the unique needs of youth from underserved populations, including those who are LGBTQ, gender diverse, adolescent parents, from rural areas, homeless/runaway, in foster care, in juvenile justice settings, and/or from populations of color.
• Fostering young people’s health, including their sexual health, requires addressing social determinants of health including education, employment, income, housing, community safety and vitality, discrimination, family and social supports, and access to quality health care services.
• The systems that serve young people are not providing the supports needed to ensure overall health, including sexual health. Schools, community- based programs, clinics, and faith communities must be better prepared to have open and nonjudgmental conversations with youth.
• Families need to be supported in their role as sexuality educators. Honest, accurate and developmentally appropriate information from parents, grandparents, and other adult caregivers is the first step toward raising children who make safe and healthy decisions about sex, sexuality, and relationships.
• STI rates are at an all-time high. Current resources for STI prevention and treatment are inadequate to address this priority public health issue. Increased federal and state funding is needed to build public health education campaigns and make testing and treatment more accessible.
• Clinicians and educators must stress the importance of barrier methods, including with youth who use IUDs and implants. Widespread adoption of innovations in screening — such as universal testing in schools, street outreach, and home-based screening — together with expanded access to treatment, including expedited partner therapy, can address rising rates of STIs.
• Minnesota's most vulnerable youth — including those who are runaway, homeless and in juvenile corrections facilities — require increased resources and targeted interventions. The systems that serve these youth have a unique opportunity to address their sexual and reproductive health care needs, and everyone has a role to play to ensure these youth have a successful transition to adulthood.