'Pregnant' boys star in Chicago's campaign to reduce teen births

12:46 PM, Jun 10, 2013   |    comments
  • Chicago's teen pregnancy campaign ad (NBC)
  • Chicago's teen pregnancy campaign ad (NBC)
    
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CHICAGO (NBC) -- Oh boy, he's having a baby.

It's hard to ignore images of teenage boys sporting "pregnant" bellies and that's exactly the intent of Chicago's new eye-catching teen pregnancy prevention campaign.

Launched last month, it aims to "spark conversations among adolescents and adults on the issue of teen pregnancy and to make the case that teen parenthood is more than just a girl's responsibility," according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.

You can see the ads on public transit buses, trains, platforms and bus shelters throughout the Windy City, with organizers specifically targeting areas around high schools and communities where teen birth rates are highest, said Brian Richardson, a spokesman for the Chicago Department of Public Health.

"We wanted to create an ad campaign that would cut through the clutter and get people thinking about teen pregnancy and teen births, and how it can affect more than just teen girls," Richardson told TODAY Moms.

"That's why the campaign has been a success so far because it's gotten people talking and it's garnered a lot of attention."

Photos of the "pregnant" boys were first used during a similar initiative in Milwaukee, Wis. When Chicago was looking for new ways to engage the public about the issue and showed the posters to focus groups, the images really stood out, Richardson said. So the city received permission to re-purpose the pictures and add their own touches.

The ads feature the slogan, "Unexpected? Most teen pregnancies are," and they direct teens to visitBeYouBeHealthy.org, a website that provides information about sex, relationships and contraception. Richardson described the public response to the campaign so far as "overwhelmingly positive," though not everyone likes the photos.

"Some people have found them shocking, but that's part of the purpose," he said.

Chicago's teen birth rate remains one of the highest in the nation, but it decreased 33 percent from 1999 to 2009, according to a report released by the Chicago Department of Public Health last December.

The photos are part of a larger campaign that aims to make sure that decline continues, Richardson said.

It's not the first time a city has used provocative images and messages to get the conversation started about teen pregnancy - with mixed results.

In March, New York City officials were criticized for a public education campaign that featured posters showing toddlers with messages such as, "Dad, you'll be paying to support me for the next 20 years."

(NBC News/The Today Show)

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