Youth Health Surveys

Since 2003, CTC has worked with school districts in Franklin County and the North Quabbin to conduct the annual Teen Health Survey of students in grades 8, 10 and 12. The survey examines student behaviors, and assesses "risk factors" that increase the likelihood of problem behaviors and "protective factors" that help keep our youth safe. Topics covered in recent surveys include mental health, violence in the community, attitudes about peer risk taking, dating and sexuality, exercise and nutrition, and decision-making. Using the results of the survey, we are better able to design programs, secure funding, and educate parents, students and the community.

Nine school districts participate in the regional survey: Athol/Royalston, Four Rivers Public Charter School, Franklin County Technical School, Frontier, Gill-Montague, Greenfield, Mohawk Trail, and Pioneer Valley, and Ralph C. Mahar.

To broaden and enrich the information the surveys provide, we use three different survey instruments in a three-year cycle. Each survey has its particular strengths and uses.

For more information about the Teen Health Survey, contact Jeanette Voas.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Every other year, the CDC conducts a national YRBS, and the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education conducts a state YRBS. Using the YRBS locally therefore enables us to compare our young people to their peers in the state and nation as a whole. The YRBS examines only behaviors (not contributing factors) but covers a broader range of behaviors than does the PNAS. CTC used the YRBS to survey students in 2007, 2010 and 2013.

 

The Prevention Needs Assessment Survey

The Prevention Needs Assessment Survey (PNAS) asks students about substance use and violence, and assesses risk and protective factors that underlie risky behaviors. The detail the PNAS provides on risk and protective factors in the school, family, and community have proven valuable for community assessment and strategic planning. CTC conducted the PNAS in area schools in 2003, 2006, 2009, and 2012 providing data to gauge trends over time. The trends show that substance use is down. We also see an improvement in school climate, an important contributor to healthy behaviors.

 

The Custom Survey

In the third year in the cycle, CTC uses a survey of its own design, so as to explore emerging issues and issues of local importance that are not addressed in the PNAS or YRBS. The survey retains a core set of questions from national surveys to maintain an annual check on critical behaviors, and it draws research-tested questions from established surveys to the extent possible. It is designed by the Regional School Health Task Force (RSHTF) with the aim of providing information desired by local schools and community groups. Community members interested in particular data for needs assessments, program evaluations or grant applications are invited to submit their ideas to the RSHTF for possible inclusion in the custom survey. The last custom survey was conducted in 2011, and the next will be in 2014.