The advertisements, which are plastered across city buses and trains in Chicago, read: "Unexpected? Most teen pregnancies are. Avoid unplanned pregnancies and STIs. Use condoms. Or wait." Nothing shocking about that, right? That is, until you place that message above the head of a teenage boy with what seems to be a pregnant belly protruding above his blue jeans. Then the ads become just plain weird.

The ad campaign is part of the Chicago Department of Health's teen pregnancy initiative, which includes a five-year, $19.7 million grant to the Office of Adolescent and School Health. The funding is for evidence-based youth development programs that are shown to reduce teen pregnancies by more than 50 percent and increase attendance and graduation rates. The ads direct teens to, where they can read about different types of contraception, myths and facts about unprotected sex, and where to receive free condoms.

"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," Brian Richardson, spokesman for the Chicago Dept. of Public Health, told the Daily News.

According to Feinberg School of Medicine's Center for Healthcare Equity, Chicago's teen pregnancy rate was 57 percent higher than that of the entire U.S. in 2008. In addition, a 2009 Youth Risk Behavior Survey revealed that 53.6 percent of Chicago public high school students reported having had sexual intercourse.

Concentrated around schools with the highest rates of teen pregnancy, the ads aim to show that when teen girls get pregnant, they are not the only ones whose lives will change as a result of having a new baby. Richardson said that if the ads call attention to the problem of teen pregnancy and get teens to at least think about safe sex, then they are doing what they are meant to do.

"The daughters of teen mothers are more likely to become teen moms themselves," he said. "And the sons of teen moms are more likely to go to prison. These are challenges that go beyond one girl or one woman. The more we can work together to drive down the birth rate, and provide more information to teens, the better off we'll all be."

Chicago Dept. of Public Health
Chicago Dept. of Public Health