The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy reported teen childbearing cost Missouri taxpayers at least $184 million in 2010. Teens need accurate information to help them both postpone sexual activity and protect themselves if they do become sexually active. Giving birth as a teen has social, economic, and health risks for both the mother and baby. Teen pregnancy is a leading cause of high school drop-out. Only 40% of mothers who have children before age 18 graduate from high school compared with about three-quarters of young women who delay childbearing until age 20 or 21. A child's chance of growing up in poverty is nine times greater if the mother gave birth during adolescence, if the parents were unmarried when the child was born, and if the mother did not receive a high school diploma. Babies born to teen mothers are at increased risk for low birth weight, prematurity and death. In addition, children of teen parents suffer higher rates of abuse and neglect than children of mothers that delayed childbearing.
The CDC has identified teen pregnancy prevention as a winnable battle. According to the CDC, we can prevent teen pregnancies by promoting teen friendly interventions aimed at both increasing the number of teens who abstain from or delay sexual activity, and increasing the number of sexually active teens who consistently and correctly use effective contraceptive methods. Mississippi County children and youth are especially at risk, as evidenced by the 2013 Missouri Kids Count rankings. Mississippi County's overall composite rank is 113 out of 115. The number of teens who become pregnant each year is unacceptably high. The county ranks 114 out of 115 for births to teens, ages 15–19. Births to teens in Mississippi County occurred at a rate of 82.0 per 1,000 compared to a state rate of 32.2 per 1,000. The county also ranks 114 out of 115 for infants born with low birthweights and 12.4% of births were low birthweight. Thirty-four percent (34.2%) of children live in poverty and 30.2% of the 3,194 child residents are minorities. Growing up in a single-parent family, living in poverty, having low performance in school, and having parents with low educational attainment increases the likelihood that teens will engage in unprotected sex, become pregnant, and give birth. In 2012, 30 infants were born to mothers age 10 – 19, in Mississippi County. Twenty-eight (28) of the 30 young mothers were not married and 20 of the 30 had not completed their high school education. An alarming 81.7% of Mississippi County families with female householder, no husband present, with related children five years of age and younger, live below the federal poverty level (source: Census Bureau).
The Women's Reproductive Health Profile, published by MO DHSS, indicates Mississippi County births occur at a rate of 0.4 per 100 compared to a state rate of 0.1 per 100 among teens under age 15; a rate of 6.2 per 100 compared to a state rate of 2.72 per 100 among mothers age 15 – 17; and a rate of 13.5 per 100 compared to a state rate of 7.22 per 100 mothers age 18 – 19. Mississippi County has striking and persistent racial/ethnic disparities in adolescent pregnancy and birth rates. Births to mothers under age 15 occur at a rate of 0.2 per 100 whites and a rate of 1.1 per 100 African Americans. Births to mothers age 15 – 17 occur at a rate of 5.3 per 100 whites and a rate of 8.7 per 100 African Americans and births to mothers age 18 – 19 occur at a rate of 12.0 per 100 whites and a rate of 17.7 per 100 African Americans. Fifteen percent (15.6%) of whites and 33.9% of African Americans receive inadequate prenatal care.
Residents of Mississippi County are also significantly at risk for sexually transmitted diseases and HIV. Chlamydia occurs at a rate of 2,099.6 per 100,000 compared to a state rate of 1,483.27 per 100,000. According to MO DHSS, the county HIV prevalence rate (208.9 per 100,000 persons) is greater than the state rate (186.0 per 100,000 persons) and is the highest in the Southeast Region. In 2013, 27 county residents were reported to be living with HIV. The number includes 13 females and 14 males. Fewer than 5 were age 19 and under, 10 were age 19 – 24, 11 were age 25 – 44, and fewer than 5 were ages 45 and over. A total of 159 females and 43 males were tested for HIV in 2013. Sixteen were age 19 and younger.
Mississippi County Health Department provides services to 145 youth, ages 19 and younger, through the family planning program. In 2013, the agency performed 131 pregnancy tests for females age 19 and younger, 40 of the tests were positive. A random survey of teens currently enrolled in the family planning and WIC programs provided information about the perceived teen pregnancy prevention needs in the county. A lack of education and knowledge was consistently identified as a reason teens are getting pregnant and as a factor that keeps teens from using services that would help them prevent pregnancy. Another identified need was parent/guardian involvement. Teens reported wishing someone, a trusted adult, would have provided them with the information to support postponing sexual involvement or provided accurate information on how to prevent pregnancy. All teens stated they wish they would have waited to become a parent.
 The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy. (2010). Briefly—Policy Brief: The Link Between Reducing Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and Poverty. Washington, DC: Author.
 Mathews TJ, Sutton PD, Hamilton BE, Ventura SJ. State disparities in teenage birth rates in the United States. NCHS data brief, no 46. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2010.
 Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dear Colleague Letter by Thomas R. Frieden, Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January 14, 2011.