Context: Traditional methods of identifying areas in need of adolescent pregnancy prevention programs may miss small localities with high levels of adolescent childbearing.
Methods: Birthrates for 15-17-year-olds were computed for all California zip codes, and the zip codes with birthrates in the 75th percentile were identified. Panels of local experts in adolescent pregnancy reviewed these "hot spots" for accuracy and grouped them into potential project areas, based on their demographics, geography and political infrastructure.
Results: In all, 415 zip codes exceeded the 75th-percentile cut-off point of 62.8 births per 1,000, and 210 of them differed significantly from the state average of 44.5 per 1,000 for 15-17-year-olds. While all had high adolescent birthrates, they varied greatly in racial and ethnic mix, poverty and educational attainment, and certain perinatal measures such as inadequate prenatal care and repeat pregnancy.
Conclusions: The use of zip code-level data holds promise for more effective program planning and intervention.
PIP: Traditional methods of identifying areas in need of adolescent pregnancy prevention programs may overlook small localities with high levels of adolescent childbearing in communities and counties where this is not a universal problem. The present study assessed the potential of a "geomapping" approach based on measurement of the number of births occurring to teens 15-17 years old in each California (US) zip code in 1992-94. A total of 415 zip codes with teen birth rates in excess of the state's 75th percentile cut-off point (62.8 births/1000) were identified. 210 of these zip codes, accounting for 96% of all births to 15-17 year olds in the 75th-percentile zip codes, differed significantly (p 0.01) from the state average of 44.5 births/1000 15-17 year olds. 178 (85%) of these 210 "hot spots" also included birth rates exceeding the third quartile among teens 10-14 and/or 18-19 years old. Panels of local experts reviewed these "hot spots" for accuracy and grouped them into 82 potential project areas on the basis of demographics, geography, and political infrastructure. Although there was substantial variation, localities with the highest teen birth rates tended to be characterized by minority overrepresentation, poverty, and poor prenatal care coverage. In addition to identifying areas with unmet need, this approach encourages community participation in program development.