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Posted September 7, 2012 | comments Leave a comment

Health district, school divisions team up to assess risky behaviors

By Kim Walter - kwalter@nvdaily.com

For the first time, school divisions in the Lord Fairfax Health District will administer the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 's Youth Risk Behavior survey to 8th- and 11th-grade students.

The state used the survey in 1993, 2009 and 2011, but Dr. Charles Devine, director of the local health district, said participation numbers were very small and the data wasn't useful to look at the commonwealth as a whole.

"We could presume our kids behave similarly to those throughout the state, but conducting the survey here will help us to identify and focus on risky behaviors among youth locally," he said.

Nationally, the survey has been given in odd years since 1991, and Devine noted that another good reason to participate as often as possible is to get a better idea of how behaviors change over time.

Last year's survey started with a note to students that outlined what they could expect, and why the results were important to their health education. It is mentioned several times that answers will be kept private and there will be no way for anyone to trace responses back to an individual. Additionally, it says that if a student does not feel comfortable answering a question, then it can be left blank.

It also asks students to "answer the questions based on what you really do."

"I expect that in general, our results will be fairly similar to the state's," Devine said. "But we can use our specific results to pinpoint major issues within each division, and even in each school. That data can be used by the health department, the community and schools to learn where we need to intervene with our kids."

While parents can refuse permission for their child to participate, Devine said he hopes as many students as possible will take the survey because "more people taking it will give us the best data."

All school districts should administer the surveys within the next few weeks, Devine said, and results won't be available for several months afterward.

"We won't have that information as quickly as we'd like," he said. "But we'll finally be able to sort out truly what risky behaviors are significant in our population as opposed to others in the state and nation."

To see last year's results for Va., or to learn more about the survey, go to www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/yrbs/.

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