Chicago Health Department Pushes Boundaries With Anti-Teen Pregnancy Campaign

By Chuck Sudo in News on Jun 11, 2013 4:40PM

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Courtesy Chicago Department of Public Health

By now most Chicagoans have seen ads on CTA trains and buses showing shirtless teenage boys with pregnant bellies and dour countenances followed by the tagline, “Unexpected? Most teen pregnancies are.”

The ads are part of a campaign by the Chicago Department of Public Health aimed at raising awareness on the subject of teen pregnancies, with the clear message that it doesn’t only affect young women. Teen pregnancies in Chicago are down 33 percent, but still remain 1.5 times higher than the national average. The ads ask readers to go to the website BeYouBeHealthy.org, which provides resources for teens and adults about sexual health, contraception education, relationships, public health data and a clinic finder. Chicago Health Commissioner Dr. Bechara Choucair said the campaign is part of his department’s mission to “make Chicago the healthiest city in the nation.”

But it is drawing some criticism on social media channels from people who claim the ads are disrespectful to the transgendered community. The campaign isn’t new. A similar one run in Milwaukee three years ago is credited with a 10 percent reduction in teen pregnancy and public health campaigns depicting pregnant men date back as far as the 1970s.

But what is acceptable in ad campaigns has changed significantly in the past 40 years and Health Department spokesman Brian Richardson told the New York Daily News this one is meant to shock. “The point was to get people’s attention and get conversation started about teen pregnancy and teen births, and how they really affect a community,” Richardson said.

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Courtesy Chicago Department of Public Health