Do you know what your teenager goes through every day when you send them off to school?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wants to help you understand.
The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) is conducted every two years by the CDC in partnership with state and local education and health agencies. It studies and measures six categories of health-related behaviors in middle school and high school students “that contribute to the leading causes of death and disability among youth and adults,” according to the CDC website.
The survey looks at behaviors related to unintentional injuries and violence; sexual behaviors; drug, alcohol and tobacco use; dietary behaviors; and physical activity.
“It helps us really understand what are our teenagers experiencing,” Celeste Jorge, an epidemiologist at the Connecticut Department of Public Health, said. “If we don’t ask about a behavior, how do we know what the teenagers are experiencing in their day-to-day?”
Georgi Roberts, Fort Worth school district director of Health and Physical Education, said the district received funding from the CDC five years ago to reduce sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV and teen pregnancy, and provide safe and supportive environments for students.
Part of that funding required the district to participate in the YRBS, which now allows the CDC to monitor which behaviors are more likely to occur in the district than nationwide, and vice versa. FWISD released its own breakdown of the survey, showing how different behaviors have changed in the district since the last survey was conducted in 2015.
What behaviors should you look out for?
In Fort Worth, 9.2 percent of the high school students surveyed in 2017 said they didn’t go to school because it felt unsafe, compared to an average of 6.7 percent of students nationwide. The Fort Worth students with the highest rates of feeling unsafe were Hispanic.
Meanwhile, 27.6 percent of Fort Worth students surveyed said they were offered, sold or given an illegal drug on school property compared to 19.8 percent of students in the United States. This was most common among non-Hispanic white students.
The study also found that 10.6 percent had attempted suicide one or more times in the 12 months prior to the survey. The rate was highest among black females. While the FWISD is taking all of the data and its findings seriously, Roberts said the district is making a particular effort to address mental health.
“This year we’ve just been refunded by the CDC for another grant and we’re putting more emphasis on a safe and supportive environment,” Roberts said. “We know that children who are homeless, or LGBTQ, or have changed schools, are disproportionately subjected to these unhealthy behaviors.”