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Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS)
Summary Sheet


What is the Youth Risk Behavior System (YRBS)?
The YRBS was developed in 1990 to monitor priority health risk behaviors that contribute markedly to the leading causes of death, disability, and social problems among youth and adults in the United States. These behaviors, often established during childhood and early adolescence, include tobacco use, unhealthy dietary behaviors, inadequate physical activity, alcohol and other drug use, sexual behaviors that contribute to unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV infection, and behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries and violence.

What are the purposes of the YRBS?
Both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) random sample and the self-selected YRBS were designed to determine the prevalence of health risk behaviors, assess whether health risk behaviors increase, decrease, or stay the same over time, and examine the co-occurrence of health risk behaviors. The YRBS provides comparable national, state, and local data and it provides comparable data among subpopulations of youth. It also monitors progress toward achieving the Healthy People 2010 objectives and other program indicators.

What are the components of the YRBS?
The YRBS includes national, state, and local school-based surveys of representative samples of 9th through 12th grade students. The CDC random sample surveys are conducted during the odd-numbered years, i.e. 2001, 2003, 2005, etc. and provide data representative of high school students in public schools in the United States. Results of the CDC random sampling YRBS are published on a regular basis in the CDC periodical, Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report. The self-selected surveys are conducted on even-numbered years, i.e. 2000, 2002, 2004. etc. to prevent interference with the CDC random sample survey. The self-selected school surveys provide data that are only representative of participating local high school students within the selected schools. School district officials and administrators of participating schools decide if, how, and when the survey results will be made public.

What is different about the self-selected YRBS?
Since 1994, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH), Maternal and Child Health Division (MCH), Child and Adolescent Health Service (CAH) have been offering the YRBS to state schools on a voluntary basis. Oklahoma schools must contact the OSDH-YRBS coordinator to request participation in the YRBS. The YRBS data from a local school becomes the sole property of that school. OSDH reserves the right to use all data collected through the self-selected YRBS to create aggregate reports about Oklahoma’s youth. OSDH will never release information about a specific school or school district without expressed written permission from the school or school district. The participating school district and school makes the decision when to release their YRBS results, how those results will be used, and what actions are needed to address those local issues.

How much does it cost and what is involved?
There is no cost to the school district or school to conduct both the CDC random sample and the self-selected YRBS through the Oklahoma State Department of Health. (Note, the parental permission form is provided by OSDH, which can be sent home with students or mailed home directly. The host school absorbs any mailing costs.) Staff from OSDH or the County Health Department will make an initial visit to orient the staff/school officials on the CDC random sample or self-selected YRBS survey process and to discuss training of survey administrators. Other visits may be needed to provide training, assist with test administration, and to deliver the results of the analyzed data to school officials and whomever the school invites to the presentation. OSDH or the County Health Department provides training to local staff, survey materials, a completed analysis of the self-selected data results in a presentation format, and assistance in locating local resources to address issues highlighted through the YRBS.

How is the survey administered?
The CDC random sample YRBS is usually administered to selected schools and classrooms during a given class period. Often, the self-selected YRBS is administered to the entire school population, which requires advance coordination so that all students are given the survey on the same day and preferably at the same time.

The CDC random sample YRBS is often administered by the staff of the Oklahoma State Department of Health, Maternal and Child Health Service, Child and Adolescent Health Division and local County Health Department. The County Health Department personnel may administer the self-selected YRBS, or if the school population is large, school staff may administer the survey. Mandatory training will be provided to all staff, including school staff involved with administering the YRBS at their site. The way in which both the CDC random sample and self-selected survey is presented can make a tremendous difference in the validity and reliability of the data collected. Any bias (intentional or unintentional) introduced during YRBS preparation or administration can affect how students respond to the survey. To ensure both survey results are as valid and as reliable as possible, all survey administrators are given specific guidelines about the survey atmosphere, confidentiality procedures and safeguards, and recommendations about how to handle student questions during the YRBS.

Who do I contact for more information?
If you would like more information about YRBS please contact the Thad Burk, Child and Adolescent Health Epidemiologist, at (405) 271-6761 or by e-mail at thadb@health.ok.gov

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