12-year-old mother's dream

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The Independent Online
Britain's youngest mother promised yesterday that she would raise her daughter not to make the same mistake she had. Her pledge came as the health minister, Tessa Jowell, declared that reducing teenage pregnancies would be at the centre of a new government drive to reduce the health gap between rich and poor.

Jenny Teague, 12, from Poole, Dorset, whose father is unemployed, did not realise she was going to have a baby until she was eight months pregnant after one night of experimental sex with a 13-year-old boy. Posing for pictures with her daughter, Sasha, now three months old, she said: "My one big dream is to be older. I am too young to have a baby."

Yesterday, Ms Jowell, launching the Government's public health strategy, said that stopping teenage pregnancies was a way of breaking the cycle of inequality. "It is all too likely to be a cause as well as a symptom of poor education, unemployment and social exclusion. If a healthy school can keep a child from following her mother by getting pregnant at 17 she has a better chance of getting qualifications, getting a job, breaking out of the loop."

Ms Jowell, Britain's first minister of public health, announced plans at a London conference to promote healthy schools and workplaces, to devise new health targets, an independent review of health inequalities and a Green Paper in the autumn setting out the Government's strategy.

She was joined by Estelle Morris, education minister, and Michael Meacher, environment minister, to demonstrate the Government's determination to incorporate all departments in the strategy.

Ms Jowell said deprivation and inequality were blots on society and there were many examples of how the social divide damaged health. The death rates for men in social class V were three times those of social class I, and children in social class V were five times more likely to die in an accident than those in social class I.

Employers will also be targeted to improve health at work and reduce the 187 million days lost in sickness absence which cost industry pounds 12bn a year.