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High Teen Birth Rates In Rural Kansas Catch the Attention of Children's Mercy Doctor

Dr. Romina Barral specializes in adolescent medicine

Getting pregnant at 17, Claudia Rivera says, changed her life - and her plans to go to college.

"I had him three months after I graduated," she says. "I was going to go to school, but when it was my due date, that's when classes started, so I delayed it two years and now next year for sure I'm going."

The same year Rivera became pregnant, her best friend also had a baby.

In Liberal, she says, teen moms aren't that unusual. In fact, southwest Kansas cities like Liberal, Dodge City and Garden City have the highest teenage birth rates in the state.

These towns also happen to have large Latino populations. Close to 60 percent of Liberal's 20,000 residents are Latino. Many, like Rivera's parents, emigrated from Mexico to work in the meatpacking plant.

The high teen pregnancy rates in this rural part of the state caught the attention of Dr. Romina Barral, a physician specializing in adolescent medicine at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City.

"When I came here to Kansas, I noticed that the teen pregnancy rates were higher than the rest of the country," Barral says. "In fact, it was three times higher in the Latino or Hispanic community compared to other ethnic groups."

Read more via kcur.org.