Earlier this week, there was hopeful news about the declining national and local teen pregnancy and birth rates.
Among the areas that still merited attention and focus, however, were culturally appropriate strategies for educating young men and women about healthy reproductive health choices.
For instance, while rates are declining among many populations, including African Americans, teen pregnancy rates among Latinas continue to rise.
The reason why?
Applying the same approaches and strategies to Latinas that are applied to black and white communities isn’t working.
Translating a message into Spanish doesn’t necessary mean that it’s going to get across if other cultural factors aren’t taken into account–a reality discussed in an article in Newsweek this week, "Learning to ‘Think Twice’: A new salvo in the fight to prevent Latino teen pregnancy."
Alvaro Simmons, COO of Washington, D.C.’s Mary’s Center for Maternal and Child Care (a Grantee Partner of The Women’s Foundation), explains in the article that Latinos who are closer to their parents tend to delay sex, and engage in safer sex practices, due to an ingrained respect for elders that is part of Hispanic culture, as an example.
"Literature shows that this concept is unique to the Latino community," Simmons says. "It is one [teen-pregnancy] intervention that works when tested against other communities. "
The article, and the work being done by Mary’s Center and other innovative organizations that are applying a researched, gender and cultural lens to the issue of teen pregnancy, are a great reminder of the importance of investing in social change strategies that take into account realities specific to culture, gender, geography, etc. to achieve marked impact.
Otherwise, even the best-laid efforts and intentions can be lost in translation.